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1550s, "engagement or undertaking to do something," from Latin stipulationem (nominative stipulatio), from past participle stem of stipulari "exact a promise." Traditionally said to be from Latin stipula "straw," in reference to some obscure symbolic act; this is rejected by most authorities, who, however, have not come up with a better guess. Meaning "act of specifying one of the terms of a contract or agreement" is recorded from 1750.