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1620s, "act of fixing or steadying;" from settle (v.) + -ment. Meaning "a colony," especially a new one, "tract of country newly developed" is attested from 1690s; that of "small village on the frontier" is from 1827, American English. Sense of "payment of an account" is from 1729; legal sense "a settling of arrangements" (of divorce, property transfer, etc.) is from 1670s.
Social and cultural centers established by reformers in slum areas of American cities during the 1890s and the early 1900s. Jane Addams founded the most famous settlement house, in Chicago. (See Progressive movement.)
Note: Settlement houses attracted idealistic college graduates eager to learn how the poor lived and to improve the condition of the poor.