One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A gratuitous or motiveless action performed on impulse.
1930s; earliest use found in ‘Rebecca West’ (1892–1983), writer, critic, and journalist. From French acte gratuit (1927 in the work of André Gide, or earlier; compare his earlier use in this sense of acte libre and action gratuite) from acte + gratuit.
acte gratuit/ˌakt ɡraˈtwi/
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