“A man claimed he wanted peace, while packing his piece, all for a piece of the pie.”
mid-12c., “freedom from civil disorder,” from Anglo-French pes, Old French pais “peace, reconciliation, silence, permission” (11c., Modern French paix), from Latin pacem (nominative pax) “compact, agreement, treaty of peace, tranquility, absence of war” (source of Provençal patz, Spanish paz, Italian pace), from PIE root *pag- “to fasten” (which is the source also of Latin pacisci “to covenant or agree;” see pact), on the notion of “a binding together” by treaty or agreement.
Replaced Old English frið, also sibb, which also meant “happiness.” Modern spelling is 1500s, reflecting vowel shift. Sense in peace of mind is from c. 1200. Used in various greetings from c. 1300, from Biblical Latin pax, Greek eirene, which were used by translators to render Hebrew shalom, properly “safety, welfare, prosperity.”
Sense of “quiet” is attested by 1300; meaning “absence or cessation of war or hostility” is attested from c. 1300. As a type of hybrid tea rose (developed 1939 in France by François Meilland), so called from 1944. Native American peace pipe is first recorded 1760. Peace-officer attested from 1714. Peace offering is from 1530s. Phrase peace with honor first recorded 1607 (in “Coriolanus”). The U.S. Peace Corps was set up March 1, 1962. Peace sign, both the hand gesture and the graphic, attested from 1968.
c. 1200, “fixed amount, measure, portion,” from Old French piece “piece, bit portion; item; coin” (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *pettia, probably from Gaulish *pettsi (compare Welsh peth “thing,” Breton pez “piece, a little”), perhaps from an Old Celtic base *kwezd-i-, from PIE root *kwezd- “a part, piece” (source also of Russian chast’ “part”). Related: Pieces.
Sense of “portable firearm” first recorded 1580s; that of “chessman” is from 1560s. Meaning “person regarded as a sex object” is first recorded 1785 (compare piece of ass under ass (n.2); human beings colloquially have been piece of flesh from 1590s; also compare Latin scortum “bimbo, anyone available for a price,” literally “skin”). Meaning “a portion of a distance” is from 1610s; that of “literary composition” dates from 1530s. Piece of (one’s) mind is from 1570s. Piece of work “remarkable person” echoes Hamlet. Piece as “a coin” is attested in English from 1570s, hence Piece of eight, old name for the Spanish dollar (c. 1600) of the value of 8 reals.
PIECE. A wench. A damned good or bad piece; a girl who is more or less active and skilful in the amorous congress. Hence the (Cambridge) toast, may we never have a PIECE (peace) that will injure the constitution. [“Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence,” London, 1811]
“to mend by adding pieces,” late 14c., from piece (n.). Sense of “to join, unite, put together” is from late 15c. Related: Pieced; piecing.