late 14c., "higher in position," from Old French superior, from Latin superiorem (nominative superior) "higher," comparative of superus "situated above, upper," from super "above, over" (see super-). Meaning "higher in rank or dignity" is attested from late 15c.; sense of "of a higher nature or character" is attested from 1530s. Original sense was preserved more strongly in French (cf. les étages supérieur "the upper stories"), and in Lake Superior, a loan-translation of French Lac Supérieur, literally "upper lake" (it has the highest elevation of the five Great Lakes).