1640s, first used in English by physician Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), apparently coined as Modern Latin electricus (literally "resembling amber") by English physicist William Gilbert (1540-1603) in treatise "De Magnete" (1600), from Latin electrum "amber," from Greek elektron "amber" (Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus), also "pale gold" (a compound of 1 part silver to 4 of gold); of unknown origin.
Originally the word described substances which, like amber, attract other substances when rubbed. Meaning "charged with electricity" is from 1670s; the physical force so called because it first was generated by rubbing amber. In many modern instances, the word is short for electrical. Figurative sense is attested by 1793. Electric toothbrush first recorded 1936; electric typewriter 1958.