Word Origin & History
early 13c., "body of persons living under a religious discipline," from O.Fr. ordre (11c.), from earlier ordene, from L. ordinem (nom. ordo) "row, rank, series, arrangement," originally "a row of threads in a loom," from Italic root *ored(h)- "to arrange, arrangement" (cf. ordiri "to begin to weave,"
e.g. in primordial), of unknown origin. Meaning "a rank in the (secular) community" is first recorded c.1300; meaning "command, directive" is first recorded 1540s, from the notion of "to keep in order." Military and honorary orders grew our of the fraternities of Crusader knights. Business and commerce sense is attested from 1837. In natural history, as a classification of living things, it is first recorded 1760. Meaning "condition of a community which is under the rule of law" is from late 15c. Phrase in order to (1650s) preserves etymological notion of "sequence." The word reflects a very medieval notion: "a system of parts subject to certain uniform, established ranks or proportions," and was used of everything from architecture to angels. The verb is mid-13c., from the noun. In short order "without delay" is from 1834, Amer.Eng.; order of battle is from 1769.