Word Origin & History
1436, "pertaining to the people," from O.Fr. public (1311), from L. publicus, altered (by influence of L. pubes "adult population, adult") from Old L. poplicus "pertaining to the people," from populus "people." Meaning "open to all in the community" is from 1542. The noun meaning "the community" is attested
from 1611. Public enemy is attested from 1756. Public relations first recorded 1913 (after an isolated use by Thomas Jefferson in 1807); abbreviation P.R. is from 1942. Public school is from 1580, originally, in Britain, a grammar school endowed for the benefit of the public, but most have evolved into boarding-schools for the well-to-do. The main modern meaning in U.S., "school (usually free) provided at public expense and run by local authorities," is attested from 1644. For public house, see pub.