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late 14c., "to bring to mind by description," also "to symbolize, serve as a sign or symbol of; serve as the type or embodiment of;" from Old French representer "present, show, portray" (12c.), from Latin repraesentare "make present, set in view, show, exhibit, display," from re-, intensive prefix (see re-), + praesentare "to present," literally "to place before" (see present (v.)). Legislative sense is attested from 1650s. Related: Represented; representing.