“Popular was originally a legal and political term, from popularis, L-belonging to the people. An…”

“Popular was originally a legal and political term, from popularis, L-belonging to the people. An action popular, from C15, was a legal suit which it was open to anyone to begin. Popular estate and popular government, from C16, referred to a political system constituted or carried on by the whole people, but there was also the sense (cf. COMMON) of ‘low or ‘base. The transition to the predominant modern meaning of ‘widely favored or ‘well-liked is interesting in that it contains a strong element of setting out to gain favor, with a sense of calculation that has not quite disappeared but that is evident in a reinforced phrase like deliberately popular. Most of the men who have left records of the use of the word saw the matter from this point of view, downwards.”

Raymond Williams, Keywords