{{11}}press (n.) c.1300, "crowd, multitude," from O.Fr. presse (11c.), from L. pressare (see PRESS (Cf. press) (v.1)). Meaning "device for squeezing" (cloth, grapes, olives, etc.) is recorded from late 14c., from M.Fr. presse. Specific sense "machine for printing" is from 1530s; extended to publishing houses by 1570s and to publishing generally (in phrases like freedom of the press) c.1680. This gradually shifted c.1800-1820 to "periodical publishing, journalism." Meaning "journalists collectively" is attested from 1926 (though superseded by media since the rise of television, etc.).
Press agent is from 1883; press conference is attested from 1937, though the thing itself dates to at least World War I. Press secretary is recorded from 1959. Via the sense "crowd, throng," M.E. in press meant "in public," a coincidental parallel to the modern phrase in the press. Basketball defense so called from 1961.
{{12}}press (v.1) "push against," early 14c., from O.Fr. preser (13c.), from L. pressare "to press," frequentative of pressus, p.p. of premere "to press, hold fast, cover, crowd, compress," from PIE *prem-/*pres- "to strike." Figurative sense from late 14c. Meaning "gather in a crowd" is from mid-14c., as is that of "proceed." Meanings "to assault, attack; to constrain, compel" are late 14c. Weight-lifting sense is attested from 1908. Related: Pressed; PRESSING (Cf. pressing).
{{12}}press (v.2) "force into service," 1570s, alteration (by association with PRESS (Cf. press) (v.1)) of prest (mid-14c.) "engage by loan, pay in advance," especially money paid to a soldier or sailor on enlisting, from L. praestare "to provide," from prae- "before" + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see STET (Cf. stet)). Related to praesto (adv.) "ready, available." Related: Pressed; pressing.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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