The word kudos emerged in university slang around the turn of the nineteenth century with the definition "glory or fame". For a while, the word was being spelled kudo because of people mistakenly believing that the s made it plural, but that got fully sorted out by the mid-1900s. It comes directly from Ancient Greek kydos, which meant pretty much the same thing but more in a context of battle than one of scholastic competitions. This word wasn't used by regular everyday Greeks, but was more of a poetic term found only in works like The Odyssey and The Iliad. Ultimately, it literally meant "that which is heard of" and derives from the Proto-Indo-European root keu, meaning "to perceive" (this also makes up words like caution, scavange, sheen, and show). According to Google Ngram Viewer, literary usage of kudos peaked in 2011.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.