Word Origin & History
O.E. rice "wealthy, powerful, mighty," from P.Gmc. *rikijaz (cf. O.N. rikr, O.H.G. rihhi "ruler, powerful, rich," O.Fris. rike, Du. rijk, Ger. reich "rich," Goth. reiks "ruler, powerful, rich"), borrowed from a Celtic source akin to Gaulish *rix, O.Ir. ri (gen. rig) "king," from PIE base *reg- "move
in a straight line," hence, "direct, rule" (see rex
). The form of the word infl. in M.E. by O.Fr. riche "wealthy," from Frank. *riki "powerful," from the Gmc. source. The evolution of the word reflects a connection between wealth and power in the ancient world. Of food and colors, from early 14c.; of sounds, from 1590s. Sense of "entertaining, amusing" is recorded from 1760. The noun meaning "the wealthy" was in O.E.
"valued possessions, money, property," c.1200, modified from richesse (12c.), a singular form misunderstood as a plural, from O.Fr. richesse "wealth, opulence," from riche. The O.Fr. suffix -esse is from L. -itia, added to adjectives to form nouns of quality (cf. duress, largesse).