- prophylactic (adj.)
- 1570s, originally of medicines, "that tends to prevent disease," from Middle French prophylactique (16c.) and directly as a Latinized borrowing of Greek prophylaktikos "precautionary," from prophylassein "keep guard before, ward off, be on one's guard," from pro- "before" (see pro-) + phylassein, Ionic variant of phylattein "to watch over, to guard," but also "cherish, keep, remain in, preserve" (see phylactery).
The noun is first recorded 1640s, "a medicine or treatment to prevent disease;" meaning "condom" is from 1943, replacing earlier preventive (1822), preventative (1901). Condoms originally were used more to thwart contagious disease than to prevent pregnancy.