- \ \  Latin classis originally denoted ‘the people of Rome under arms, the ancient Roman army’; it appears to come from an earlier unrecorded *qladtis, a derivative of the base *qel- ‘call’, which points to an underlying sense ‘call to arms’. Under the terms of the constitution attributed to Servius Tullius, a 6thcentury BC king of Rome, the army, and hence the people, was divided into six such classes, membership of each based originally on the amount of land held, and latterly on wealth in money terms. English first adopted the word in this antiquarian sense (which provided the basis for the modern application to social class), but its widespread use in the language probably began in the sense ‘group of pupils’. The derivatives classic  and classical  come from Latin classicus, probably via French classique; in Latin, the adjective signified ‘of the highest class of Roman citizen’, whence the word’s presentday approbatory connotations.
Word origins - 2ed. J. Ayto. 2005.
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