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late 12c., "act of touching, sense of touch," verbal noun from feel (v.). Meaning "emotion" is mid-14c. Meaning "what one feels (about something), opinion" is from mid-15c. Meaning "capacity to feel" is from 1580s. Related: Feelingly.
Old English felan "to touch, perceive," from Proto-Germanic *foljan (cf. Old Saxon gifolian, Old Frisian fela, Dutch voelen, Old High German vuolen, German fühlen "to feel," Old Norse falma "to grope"), from PIE root *pal- "to touch, feel, shake, strike softly" (cf. Greek psallein "to pluck (the harp)," Latin palpare "to touch softly, stroke," palpitare "to move quickly"), perhaps ultimately imitative.
The sense in Old English was "to perceive through senses which are not referred to any special organ." Sense of "be conscious of a sensation or emotion" developed by late 13c.; that of "to have sympathy or compassion" is from c.1600. To feel like "want to" attested from 1829.
early 13c., "sensation, understanding," from feel (v.). Meaning "action of feeling" is from mid-15c. "Sensation produced by something" is from 1739. Noun sense of "sexual grope" is from 1932; from verbal phrase to feel (someone) up (1930).
v. felt (fělt), feel·ing, feels
To perceive through the sense of touch.
To perceive as a physical sensation, as of pain.
To be conscious of a particular physical, mental, or emotional state.
The sensation involving perception by touch.
A physical sensation, as of pain.
An affective state of consciousness, such as that resulting from emotions, sentiments, or desires.
To touch, caress, or handle the buttocks, breasts, legs, crotch, etc; cop a feel (1930+)
in psychology, the perception of events within the body, closely related to emotion. The term feeling is a verbal noun denoting the action of the verb to feel, which derives etymologically from the Middle English verb felen, "to perceive by touch, by palpation." It soon came to mean, more generally, to perceive through those senses that are not referred to any special organ. As the known special organs of sense were the ones mediating the perception of the external world, the verb to feel came also to mean the perception of events within the body. Psychologists disagree on the use of the term feeling. The preceding definition accords with that of the American psychologist R.S. Woodworth, who defines the problem of feeling and emotion as that of the individual's "internal state." Many psychologists, however, still follow the German philosopher Immanuel Kant in equating feeling to states of pleasantness and unpleasantness, known in psychology as affect.