1610s, from Latin census "the enrollment of the names and property assessments of all Roman citizens," originally past participle of censere "to assess" (see censor (n.)). The modern census begins in the U.S., 1790., and Revolutionary France. Property for taxation was the primary purpose in Rome, hence Latin census also was used for "one's wealth, one's worth, wealthiness."
There are five instances of a census of the Jewish people having been taken. (1.) In the fourth month after the Exodus, when the people were encamped at Sinai. The number of men from twenty years old and upward was then 603,550 (Ex. 38:26). (2.) Another census was made just before the entrance into Canaan, when the number was found to be 601,730, showing thus a small decrease (Num. 26:51). (3.) The next census was in the time of David, when the number, exclusive of the tribes of Levi and Benjamin, was found to be 1,300,000 (2 Sam. 24:9; 1 Chr. 21:5). (4.) Solomon made a census of the foreigners in the land, and found 153,600 able-bodied workmen (2 Chr. 2:17, 18). (5.) After the return from Exile the whole congregation of Israel was numbered, and found to amount to 42,360 (Ezra 2:64). A census was made by the Roman government in the time of our Lord (Luke 2:1). (See TAXING.)