early 17th century: from French classique or Latin classicus 'belonging to a class or division', later 'of the highest class', from classis (see class)
Note that classic means ‘typical, excellent as an example, timeless,’ as in John Ford directed many classic Westerns, and classical means ‘relating to Greek or Roman antiquity,’ as in the museum was built in the classical style. Great art is considered classic, not classical, unless it is created in the forms of antiquity. Classical music is one exception to this rule, being formal music adhering to certain stylistic principles of the late 18th century. A classical education exposes a student to classical literature, history, and languages (especially Latin and Greek), but the study of Greek and Latin languages and their literatures is also referred to as the classics.