In legal contexts, prima facie refers to an accusatory instrument which provides enough evidence to prove a fact. The term is obviously Latin, but, interestingly enough, it translates to "at first appearance". This is because it should be obvious enough upon initial examination that the evidence can support a case. Prima, as one can guess, means "first" in this context (and, through Proto-Italic, is reconstructed as being from Proto-Indo-European preh, "before; not much semantic change there). Facie carries a definition more like "shape" or "figure" than "appearance". It is a conjugation of facies, which is also the etymon of the English word face, through Old French face. Ultimately, most etymologists agree that this derives from Proto-Indo-European deh, which meant "to put", which is very loosely connected to "shape" but does have a slight observable correlation. Ever since prima facie was introduced to English law around the 1300s, its usage has steadily increased until a bit of a plateau in the 1900s.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.