late 14c., "relationship, relation; regard, consideration," from Old French respect and directly from Latin respectus "regard, a looking at," literally "act of looking back (or often) at one," noun use of past participle of respicere "look back at, regard, consider," from re- "back" (see re-) + specere "look at" (see scope (n.1)). Meanings "feeling of esteem excited by actions or attributes of someone or something; courteous or considerate treatment due to personal worth or power" are from 1580s, as is sense of "point, particular feature."
1540s, "to regard," from Middle French respecter "look back; respect; delay," from Latin respectere, frequentative of respicere (see respect (n.). Meaning "treat with deferential regard or esteem" is from 1550s. Sense of "refrain from injuring" is from 1620s. Meaning "have reference to" is from 1560s. Related: Respected; respecting.
To respect the person was "show undue bias toward (or against) based on regard for the outward circumstances of a person;" hence respecter of persons, usually with negative, from Acts x:34, in the 1611 translation.