One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Chiefly in Italian or Spanish contexts: a person of high rank; a nobleman or (especially in later use) a noblewoman. Frequently as a title, usually with possessive and capital initial: ‘Highness’.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in Lewes Lewkenor (d. 1626). Partly from Italian altezza highness, used as title or form of address for high nobility, and partly from Spanish alteza, † altesa fact of being high, highness, used as title or form of address for high nobility, both from post-classical Latin altitia height from classical Latin altus high + -itia.
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