lurch (v.)
1821, "to roll or sway suddenly to one side," from lurch (n.1). Meaning "walk with an uneven gait" is from 1851. Related: Lurched; lurching.
lurch (n.1)
"sudden pitch to one side," 1784, from earlier lee-larches (1765), a nautical term for "the sudden roll which a ship makes to lee-ward in a high sea, when a large wave strikes her, and bears her weather-side violently up, which depresses the other in proportion" ["Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences," London 1765]. This is perhaps from French lacher "to let go," from Latin laxus (see lax).
When a Ship is brought by the Lee, it is commonly occaſsioned by a large Sea, and by the Neglect of the Helm's-man. When the Wind is two or three Points on the Quarter, the Ship taking a Lurch, brings the Wind on the other Side, and lays the Sails all dead to the Maſt; as the Yards are braced up, ſhe then having no Way, and the Helm being of no Service, I would therefore brace about the Head ſails ſharp the other Way .... [John Hamilton Moore, Practical Navigator, 8th ed., 1784]
lurch (n.2)
"predicament," 1580s, from Middle English lurch (v.) "to beat in a game of skill (often by a great many points)," mid-14c. (implied in lurching), probably literally "to make a complete victory in lorche," an old game akin to backgammon, with a name of uncertain origin. Perhaps it is related to Middle English lurken, lorken "to lie hidden, lie in ambush" (Middle English Dictionary; see lurk), or it may be from Old French lourche, from Middle High German lurz "left," also "wrong" [OED]. The immediate source of the transferred use in leave in the lurch "leave suddenly and unexpectedly in an embarrassing predicament" (1590s) would be cribbage.