1620s, "act of clarifying, fixing, or steadying;" 1640s, "the placing of persons or things in a fixed or permanent position;" from settle (v.) + -ment. The meaning "a colony," especially a new one, "community of subjects of a state settled in a new country; tract of country newly colonized" is attested from 1690s; that of "small village on the frontier" is from 1827, American English.
The legal sense of "a settling of arrangements" (of divorce, property transfer, etc.) is from 1670s. The sense of "payment of an account, satisfaction of a claim or demand" is by 1729. The meaning "determination or decision of a question, etc." is by 1777.
Alternative settledness for "state or quality of being settled" (1570s) was "frequent in 17th c." according to OED. In late 19c., settlement also was used by Christian socialists for an establishment in a poor neighborhood where middle-class intellectuals live daily among the working class for purposes of cooperation and social reform, as better than charity in any case; hence Settlement House, etc.
updated on June 30, 2022