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late 14c., "raised, enclosed seat for certain worshippers" (ladies, important men, etc.), from Old French puie, puy "balcony, elevation," from Latin podia, plural of podium "elevated place," also "balcony in a Roman theater" (see podium). Meaning "fixed bench with a back, for a number of worshippers" is attested from 1630s.
originally a raised and enclosed place in a church designed for an ecclesiastical dignitary or officer; the meaning was later extended to include special seating in the body of the church for distinguished laity and, finally, to include all church seating. In its early stages, the pew was meant for standing in and was close in conception to a pulpit; but in its second phase of development, it became an elaborate wooden structure, shut off from the main body of the nave, with seats, prayer benches, and other accessories. Such pews were owned by individuals or institutions and appeared both in wills and in legal actions