c.1300, "chance, luck as a force in human affairs," from Old French fortune "lot, good fortune, misfortune" (12c.), from Latin fortuna "chance, fate, good luck," from fors (genitive fortis) "chance, luck," possibly from PIE *bhrtu- and related to base *bher- (1) "to carry" (see infer).
Often personified as a goddess; her wheel betokens vicissitude. Sense of "owned wealth" first found in Spenser; probably it evolved from senses of "one's condition or standing in life," hence "position as determined by wealth," then "wealth" itself. Soldier of fortune first attested 1660s. Fortune 500 "most profitable American companies" is 1955, from the list published annually in "Fortune" magazine.