Etymology: < Anglo-Norman questioun, questiun, Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French question (French question ) problem or topic which is under discussion or which must be investigated (early 12th cent. in Anglo-Norman), query, inquiry (c1160), debate, dispute, contention, quarrel (13th cent.; now regional), torture (1321) and its etymon classical Latin quaestiōn-, quaestiō act of searching, problem, subject of discussion, (in law) inquiry, examination, interrogation (including torture), (in science, in post-classical Latin also in theology) research, dispute < the stem of quaerere to ask, inquire (see quaere v.) + -tiō -tion suffix. Compare Old Occitan, Occitan question (first half of the 12th cent.), Catalan qüestió (1250), Spanish cuestión (c1250 as questión ), Portuguese questão (14th cent. as questam , questom ), Italian questione (end of the 13th cent.), and also ( < Latin, partly via French) Middle Dutch questie (Dutch kwestie ), Middle High German questje . Compare query n.2With to bring (also put) into question at Phrases 1a compare Middle French, French mettre en question to investigate, examine (a problem) (mid 15th cent. or earlier), to cast doubt upon (1560 or earlier), Middle French, French †mettre à la question to subject (a person) to torture (first half of the 14th cent. or earlier).
It has been suggested that the Latin word was perhaps borrowed into Old English as cwestion in sense ‘(theological) problem’ (see Dict. Old Eng. s.v.; one isolated attestation in a work title in multiple MSS, apparently with Latin case inflection: see quot.), but the sole example probably reflects no more than a misapprehension of the original Latin quaestionum by a scribe with an imperfect understanding of Latin grammar:
OE tr. Bede Eccl. Hist. (Corpus Cambr.) v. xxii. 482 Eft on cyninga bec þrittig cwestionem [OE Otho xxx questionem; L. in Regum librum xxx quaestionum].
I. That which is enquired about, discussed, or debated. 1.
a. A point or topic to be investigated or discussed; a problem, or a matter forming the basis of a problem.to beg the question: see beg v. 6.
c1225 (OE) Homily: Sicut Oves absque Pastore (Worcester F.174) in J. Hall Select. Early Middle Eng. (1920) 1 [S]anctus beda‥þeo cten [perh. read cnotten] unwreith þe questiuns hoteþ.
c1300 Childhood Jesus (Laud) 1687 in C. Horstmann Altengl. Legenden (1875) 1st Ser. 56 Al aday he desputede with heom With questiones and heom ouercam.
a1387 J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John's Cambr.) (1865) I. 15 In þe whiche book‥wel nyh al problemys and questiouns [L. universa pæne problemata] of þe wiseste men‥beeþ i-planted.
a1400 (1325) Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) 26104 Þar-wit-al sum questiones We sal vndo þe merk resons.
c1475 tr. C. de Pisan Livre du Corps de Policie (Cambr.) (1977) 102 He purposed firste any question‥that he wolde speke of, he wolde fayle no maner of poynte of no wey that longed to his termes.
c1510 T. More tr. G. F. Pico della Mirandola Lyfe J. Picus in Wks. 3/2 Some good simple folk, that should of zele to the faith‥impugne those questions, as new thinges.
1563 N. Winȝet Certain Tractates (1888) I. 47 (title) The buke of four scoir thre questions tueching doctrine.
a1616 Shakespeare Merry Wives of Windsor (1623) i. i. 203 But that is not the question: the question is concerning your marriage.
1663 S. Butler Hudibras: First Pt. i. ii. 108 It was a question, whether He Or's Horse were of a Family More Worshipful.
1768 T. Pownall Admin. Brit. Colonies p. x, This American question‥must now come forward.
1854 C. Kingsley Lett. (1878) I. 416 This is a question involving the lives of thousands and tens of thousands of human beings.
1879 J. McCarthy Hist. our Own Times II. xxv. 219 The Eastern Question it was that disturbed the dream of peace.
1910 E. M. Forster Howards End xi. 94 ‘The question is whether Miss Schlegel, during the fortnight we were all away, whether she unduly—’ He stopped.
1960 Observer 20 Mar. 2 There is even talk at the moment of raising the question of Mr. Crossman's expulsion.
1989 Austin (Texas) Amer.-Statesman 29 Apr. a19/5 For them, everything becomes an ethical question, a political question.
b. With of. A matter or concern depending on or involving a specified condition or thing. Now freq. in it is a question of.
c1384 Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Douce 369(2)) (1850) Deeds xviii. 15 If questiouns ben of the word and names of ȝoure lawe.
?a1425 (1380) Chaucer tr. Boethius De Consol. Philos. v. pr. iv. 2 This is‥the olde questioun of the purveaunce of God.
1526 Bible (Tyndale) Acts xviii. 15 Yf it be a question off wordes or off names or of youre lawe.
1580 in T. G. Law Catholic Tractates (1901) 63 Concerning the question of‥ordour in the kirk, ar your bischops and ye accordit?
1631 B. Jonson Bartholmew Fayre i. iii. 6 in Wks. II, To brooke the noise made, in a question of Predestination, by the good labourers and painefull eaters.
1675 R. Baxter Catholick Theol. ii. i. 127 You shall not again tempt me to anticipate the question of effectual Grace.
1701 S. Hill Rights, Liberties & Authorities Christian Church vi. 116 This I think is all that is pertinent in the Doctor, to the Question of Regal Rights and Authorities in the Acts and Offices of Synodical Session, and Presidence.
1789 T. Jefferson Let. 6 Sept. in Papers (1958) XV. 396 It renders the question of reimbursement a question of generosity and not of right.
1812 H. Smith & J. Smith Rejected Addr. 25 The question of Houses I leave to the jury.
1836 J. Gilbert Christian Atonem. ix. 382 The recovery of transgressors is not a question of mere power.
1867 E. A. Freeman Hist. Norman Conquest I. iv. 251 It was a question of time.
1920 D. H. Lawrence Women in Love vi. 69 It's more a question of hardships than of terrors.
1950 R. Macaulay World my Wilderness xxxi. 228 It was now only a question of time; she would recover.
2005 Chicago Tribune (Midwest ed.) 21 Oct. ii. 2/4, I don't believe in making the choice to adopt out children a question of character.