Three entries from the Online Etymology Dictionary:
- c.1408, from L. excellere "to rise, surpass, be eminent," from ex- "out from" + -cellere "rise high, tower," related to celsus "high, lofty, great," from PIE base *kel-/*kol- "to rise, be elevated" (see hill).
- c.1340 (implied in excellently), from O.Fr. excellent, from L. excellentem (nom. excellens), prp. of excellere (see excel). First record of excellency "high rank" is c.1200; as a title of honor it dates from c.1325.
- c.1225, "moral life and conduct, moral excellence," vertu, from Anglo-Fr. and O.Fr. vertu, from L. virtutem (nom. virtus) "moral strength, manliness, valor, excellence, worth," from vir "man" (see virile). Phrase by virtue of (c.1230) preserves alternate M.E. sense of "efficacy." Wyclif Bible has virtue where K.J.V. uses power. The (c.1320) were divided into the natural (justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude) and the theological (hope, faith, charity). To seven cardinal virtuesmake a virtue of a necessity (c.1374) translates L. facere de necessitate virtutem. [Jerome]
1. Is 'virtue' (as traditionally) or 'excellence' (as thought now) the better rendering of the Greek, arete?
2. Does the attribution of excellence to someone carry with it a comparison with others, viz. that he or she rises above others?