12c., a merger of two words, both ultimately from L. pungere
"prick, pierce" (see pungent
). The neut. pp. punctum
was used as a noun, meaning "small hole made by pricking," subsequently extended to anything that looked like one, hence, "dot, particle," etc., which was its meaning as O.Fr. point
, borrowed in M.E. by c.1300. The fem. pp. of pungere
, which was used in M.L. to mean "sharp tip," and became O.Fr. pointe,
which also passed into English, early 14c. The sense have merged in English, but remain distinct in French. Extended senses are from the notion of "minute, single, or separate items in an extended whole," which is the earliest attested sense in English (early 13c.). Meaning "distinguishing feature" is recorded from late 15c. Meaning "a unit of score in a game" is first recorded 1746. As a typeface unit, it went into use in U.S. 1883. As a measure of weight for precious stones (one one-hundredth of a carat) it is recorded from 1931. The point
"the matter being discussed" is attested from late 14c.; meaning "sense, purpose, advantage" (usually in the negative, e.g. what's the point?
) is first recorded 1903. Phrase possession is nine (or eleven) points of the law
(1690s) is out of a supposed 10 (or 12). Point of honor
(1610s) translates Fr. point d'honneur
. Point of no return
(1941) is originally aviators' term for the point in a flight "before which any engine failure requires an immediate turn around and return to the point of departure, and beyond which such return is no longer practical."