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Late Middle English (also in the sense ‘bring to an end’): from Old French definer, from a variant of Latin definire, from de- (expressing completion) + finire ‘finish’ (from finis ‘end’). The word finance is from Old French, from finer ‘make an end; settle a debt’, from fin ‘end’; the original sense was ‘payment of a debt, compensation, or ransom’, which later developed into ‘taxation, revenue’; current senses date from the 18th century. Fine (Middle English) in the sense ‘money’ you pay comes from the same source and was originally ‘a sum paid to settle a lawsuit’, while the other sense of fine—‘high quality’ leading to ‘thin’, also Middle English—goes back to the earlier sense ‘thoroughly finished’ and lies behind refine (late 16th century), define (Late Middle English), finery (late 17th century), finesse (Late Middle English), etc. Finish (Middle English) itself goes back to the same root.

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