"area," mid-15c., "period or lapse of time," from Latin tractus "track, course, space, duration," lit, "a drawing out or pulling," from stem of trahere "to pull, draw," from PIE root *tragh- "to draw, drag, move" (source also of Slovenian trag "trace, track," Middle Irish tragud "ebb;" perhaps with a variant form *dhragh-; see drag (v.)). The meaning "stretch of land or water" is first recorded 1550s. Specific U.S. sense of "plot of land for development" is recorded from 1912; tract housing attested from 1953.
"little book, treatise" mid-12c., probably a shortened form of Latin tractatus "a handling, treatise, treatment," from tractare "to handle" (see treat (v.)). Related: Tractarian.
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