early 15c., "carefully selected," from Latin exquisitus "carefully sought out," thus, "choice," from past participle of exquirere "search out thoroughly," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + quaerere "to seek" (see query (v.)).
Of any thing (good or bad, torture as well as art) brought to a highly wrought condition, sometimes shading into disapproval. A vogue word 15c.-18c., given wide extensions of meaning, none of which survives. The main modern sense of "of consummate and delightful excellence" is first attested 1579, in Lyly's "Euphues." Related: Exquisitely; exquisiteness. The noun meaning "a dandy, fop" is from 1819.