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"answering 'yes,'" mid-15c., from use in logic; from Middle French affirmatif (13c.), from Latin affirmativus, from affirmat-, past participle stem of affirmare (see affirm). As a noun from early 15c. Affirmative action "positive or corrective effort by employers to prevent discrimination in hiring or promotion" is attested from 1935 with regard to labor unions; specific racial sense is from 1961; now often used more generally in reference to hiring quotas, etc.