late 13c., "inclination, disposition, will, desire," from Old French talent (12c.), from Medieval Latin talenta, plural of talentum "inclination, leaning, will, desire" (11c.), in classical Latin "balance, weight; sum of money," from Greek talanton "a balance, pair of scales," hence "weight, definite weight, anything weighed," and in later times sum of money," from PIE *tele- "to lift, support, weigh," "with derivatives referring to measured weights and thence money and payment" [Watkins]; see extol.
An ancient denomination of weight, originally Babylonian (though the name is Greek), and varying widely in value among different peoples and at different times. [Century Dictionary]
According to Liddell & Scott, as a monetary sum, considered to consist of 6,000 drachmae, or, in Attica, 57.75 lbs. of silver. Also borrowed in other Germanic languages and Celtic. Attested in Old English as talente). The Medieval Latin and common Romanic sense developed from figurative use of the word in the sense of "money." Meaning "special natural ability, aptitude, gift committed to one for use and improvement" developed by mid-15c., in part perhaps from figurative sense "wealth," but mostly from the parable of the talents in Matthew xxv.14-30. Meaning "persons of ability collectively" is from 1856.
updated on September 25, 2018