Presto can be both a term used in music to indicate a fast tempo and an exclamation used by magicians to draw attention to the completion of a trick. The word means "quickly" in Italian (and was thus used to indicate a quick change). It comes from the Latin word praestus, which meant "ready", but had a more literal definition of "stand before". It's composed of the prefix prae-, meaning "before" (and deriving from Proto-Indo-European per, still "before") and the verb stare, which meant "to stand" (and is from PIE steh, which also had the same definition). Praestus also gave us the imprest system of accounting and the first part of the name for restaurant chain Pret-a-Manger (which translates to "ready to eat"). After peaking in the year 1797, usage of the word presto has been fairly constant over time.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior 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, art history, and law.