Word Origin & History
1137, "benevolence for the poor," from O.Fr. charite, from L. caritas (acc. caritatem) "costliness, esteem, affection" (in Vulgate often used as translation of Gk. agape "love" -- especially Christian love of fellow man -- perhaps to avoid the sexual suggestion of L. amor), from carus "dear, valued,"
from PIE *karo-, from base *ka- "to like, desire" (see whore
). Vulgate also sometimes translated agape by L. dilectio, n. of action from diligere "to esteem highly, to love."
"Wyclif and the Rhemish version regularly rendered the Vulgate dilectio by 'love,' caritas by 'charity.' But the 16th c. Eng. versions from Tindale to 1611, while rendering agape sometimes 'love,' sometimes 'charity,' did not follow the dilectio and caritas of the Vulgate, but used 'love' more often (about 86 times), confining 'charity' to 26 passages in the Pauline and certain of the Catholic Epistles (not in I John), and the Apocalypse .... In the Revised Version 1881, 'love' has been substituted in all these instances, so that it now stands as the uniform rendering of agape." [OED]