late 12c., "bountiful," from O.Fr. large "broad, wide," from L. largus "abundant, copious, plentiful, liberal," of unknown origin. Main modern meaning "extensive, big" emerged c.1300. An older sense of "liberated, free" is preserved in at large (late 14c.). Adj. phrase larger-than-life first attested 1937 (bigger than life is from 1640s).