1530s, "result, outcome," from Latin successus "an advance, succession, happy outcome," from succedere "come after" (see succeed). Meaning "accomplishment of desired end" (good success) first recorded 1580s.
Success story is attested from 1925. Among the French phrases used in English late 19c. were succès d'estime "cordial reception given to a literary work out of respect rather than admiration" and succès de scandale "success (especially of a work of art) dependent upon its scandalous character."