Word Origin & History
late 14c., "the action of hearing," from O.Fr. audience, from L. audentia "a hearing, listening," from audientum (nom. audiens), prp. of audire "to hear," from PIE compound *au-dh- "to perceive physically, grasp," from base *au- "to perceive" (cf. Gk. aisthanesthai "to feel;" Skt. avih, Avestan avish
"openly, evidently;" O.C.S. javiti "to reveal"). Meaning "formal hearing or reception" is from late 14c.; that of "persons within hearing range, assembly of listeners" is from early 15c. (Fr. audience retains only the older senses). Sense transferred 1855 to "readers of a book." Audience-participation (adj.) first recorded 1940.