early 16th century: from Latin locat- 'placed', from the verb locare, from locus 'place'. The original sense was as a legal term meaning 'rent out,' later (late 16th century) 'assign to a particular place,' then 'establish in a place.' The sense 'discover the exact position of' dates from the late 19th century
In formal English, one should avoid using locate to mean ‘find (a missing object)’: he can’t seem to locate his keys. In precise usage, locate means ‘discover the exact place or position of’ or ‘fix the position of, put in place’: the doctors hope to locate the source of the bleeding; the studio should be located on a north-facing slope.