late 13c., "restorative powers of the body, bodily processes; powers of growth;" from Old French nature "nature, being, principle of life; character, essence," from Latin natura "course of things; natural character, constitution, quality; the universe," literally "birth," from natus "born," past participle of nasci "to be born," from PIE *gene- "to give birth, beget" (see genus).
From late 14c. as "creation, the universe;" also "heredity, birth, hereditary circumstance; essential qualities, innate disposition" (e.g. human nature); "nature personified, Mother Nature." Specifically as "material world beyond human civilization or society" from 1660s. Nature and nurture have been contrasted since 1874.
Nature should be avoided in such vague expressions as 'a lover of nature,' 'poems about nature.' Unless more specific statements follow, the reader cannot tell whether the poems have to do with natural scenery, rural life, the sunset, the untouched wilderness, or the habits of squirrels." [Strunk & White, "The Elements of Style," 3rd ed., 1979]