police - c.1530, at first essentially the same word as policy (1); from M.Fr. police (1477), from L. politia “civil administration,” from Gk. polis “city” (see policy (1)). Still used in Eng. for “civil administration” until mid-19c.; application to “administration of public order” (1716) is from Fr., and originally referred to France or other foreign nations. The first force so-named in Eng. was the Marine Police, set up 1798 to protect merchandise at the Port of London. The verb “to keep order by means of police” is from 1841; policeman is from 1829. Police state “state regulated by means of national police” first recorded 1865, with ref. to Austria.
policy (1) - “way of management, government, administration,” c.1386, from O.Fr. policie (14c.) “civil administration,” from L. politia “the state,” from Gk. politeia “state, administration, government, citizenship,” from polites “citizen,” from polis “city, state,” from PIE *p(o)lH- “enclosed space, often on high ground” (cf. Skt. pur, puram “city, citadel,” Lith. pilis “fortress”). Meaning “plan of action, way of management” first recorded c.1406.
politic (adj.) - 1427, from M.Fr. politique (14c.) “political,” from L. politicus “of citizens or the state, civil, civic,” from Gk. politikos “of citizens or the state,” from polites “citizen,” from polis “city” (see policy (1)). Replaced in most adj. senses by
Political (1551). The verb meaning “to engage in political activity” is first recorded 1917, a back-formation from politics.
politics (n.) - 1529, “science of government,” from politic (adj.) (q.v.), modeled on Aristotle’s ta politika “affairs of state,” the name of his book on governing and governments, which was in Eng. 1450 as “Polettiques.”
“Politicks is the science of good sense, applied to public affairs, and, as those are forever changing, what is wisdom to-day would be folly and perhaps, ruin to-morrow. Politicks is not a science so properly as a business. It cannot have fixed principles, from which a wise man would never swerve, unless the inconstancy of men’s view of interest and the capriciousness of the tempers could be fixed.” [Fisher Ames (1758–1808)]
Meaning “a person’s political allegiances or opinions” is from 1769. Political animal transl. Gk. politikon zoon (Aristotle, Politics, I.ii.9) “an animal intended to live in a city; a social animal.” Politically correct first attested 1970; abbreviation P.C. is from 1986.
politician - 1588, from politics (q.v.). Colloquial abbreviated form pol is attested from 1942. Alternate form politico (usually in a derogatory sense) is attested from 1630, from It. or Sp. politico, noun use of adj. meaning “political,” from L. politicus (see politic).
polity - 1538, from Fr. politie (1419), from L.L. polita “organized government” (see policy).