"pattern of squares in alternating colors," c. 1400, short for checker (n.1). As a fabric having such a pattern from 1610s.
c. 1300, in chess, "a call noting one's move has placed his opponent's king (or another major piece) in immediate peril," from Old French eschequier "a check at chess" (also "chess board, chess set"), from eschec "the game of chess; chessboard; check; checkmate," from Vulgar Latin *scaccus, from Arabic shah, from Persian shah "king," the principal piece in a chess game (see shah; also compare checkmate (n.)). Also c. 1300 in a generalized sense, "harmful incident or event, hostile environment."
As "an exposure of the king to a direct attack from an opposing piece" early 15c. When his king is in check, a player's choices are severely limited. From that notion come the many extended senses: From the notion of "a sudden stoppage, hindrance, restraint" (1510s) comes that of "act or means of checking or restraining," also "means of detecting or exposing or preventing error; a check against forgery or alteration.
"Hence: "a counter-register as a token of ownership used to check against, and prevent, loss or theft" (as in hat check, etc.), 1812. Hence also the financial use for "written order for money drawn on a bank, money draft" (1798, often spelled cheque), which was probably influenced by exchequer. Hence also "mark put against names or items on a list indicating they have been verified or otherwise examined" (by 1856).
From its use in chess the word has been widely transferred in French and English. In the sense-extension, the sb. and vb. have acted and reacted on each other, so that it is difficult to trace and exhibit the order in which special senses arose [OED]
Meaning "restaurant bill" is from 1869. Checking account is attested from 1897, American English. Blank check in the figurative sense is attested by 1849 (compare carte blanche). Checks and balances is from 1782, perhaps originally suggesting machinery.
"mark like a chessboard, incise with a pattern of squares or checks," early 15c., from Old French eschequier (v.), from the noun in French (see check (n.1)). Related: Checking.
late 15c., in chess, "to attack the king; to put (the opponent's king) in check;" earlier (late 14c.) in a figurative sense, "to stop, arrest; block, barricade;" from check (n.1) or Old French eschequier, from the noun in French. A player in chess limits his opponent's ability to move when he places his opponent's king in check.
The other senses seem all to have developed from the chess sense, or from the noun: "To arrest, stop," then "to hold in restraint" (1620s); "to hold up or control" (an assertion, a person, etc.) by comparison with some authority or record (1690s); of baggage, etc., "to hand over in return for a check that serves as a means of identifying" (1846); "to note with a mark as having been examined, etc., mark off from a list" (1928).
Hence, to check off (1839); to check up (1883); to check in or out (in a hotel, of a library book, etc., 1909). To check out (something) "to look at, investigate" is from 1959. Related: Checked; checking.
c. 1300 as an adverbial phrase, "completely, thoroughly, to the utmost degree," from out (adv.). Adjective usage is attested by 1813.
in Old English a common prefix with nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs, "out, outward, outer; forth, away," from out (adv.). The use was even more common in Middle English, and also with the senses "outer, outside, on the outside, from without, external, externally; apart; greatly, extremely; completely, thoroughly, to completion." Other senses of out that extended into the use as a prefix include "beyond the surface or limits; to the utmost degree; to an explicit resolution."
In composition out has either its ordinary adverbial sense, as in outcast, outcome, outlook, etc., or a prepositional force, as in outdoors, or forms transitive verbs denoting a going beyond or surpassing of the object of the verb, in doing the act expressed by the word to which it is prefixed, as in outrun, outshine, outvenom, etc. In the last use especially out may be used with almost any noun or verb. [Century Dictionary]
Old English utian "expel, put out," from the source of out (adv.). It has been used in many specific senses over the years; the meaning "disclose to public view, reveal, make known" is by mid-14c.
Eufrosyne preyde Þat god schulde not outen hire to nowiht. ["Legendary of St. Euphrosyne," c. 1350]
Meaning "to expose as a closet homosexual" is first by 1990 (as an adjective meaning "openly avowing one's homosexuality" it dates from 1970s; see closet). To come out "declare oneself publicly as homosexual" is from 1968 and probably short for come out of the closet. Related: Outed; outing. Compare outen.
late Old English, "outer," from out (adv.). From mid-13c. as "that is or lies on the outside, exterior." Of a light or candle, "extinguished, no longer burning," c. 1300. Sense of "no longer secret" is by 1713. Sense in baseball (1860) was earlier in cricket (1746). Meaning "unconscious" is attested from 1898, originally in boxing from the notion of "defeated ('out') by failing to rise within a 10-count." To be out on one's feet is from 1952. From 1966 as "unfashionable, not stylish, popular, or modern."
expressing motion or direction from within or from a central point, also removal from proper place or position, Old English ut "out, without, outside," from Proto-Germanic *ūt- (Old Norse, Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Gothic ut, Middle Dutch uut, Dutch uit, Old High German uz, German aus), from PIE root *uidh- "up, out, up away, on high" (source also of Sanskrit ut "up, out," uttarah "higher, upper, later, northern;" Avestan uz- "up, out," Old Irish ud- "out," Latin usque "all the way to, continuously, without interruption," Greek hysteros "the latter," Russian vy- "out").
Sense of "to a full end, completely, to a conclusion or finish" is from c. 1300. Meaning "so as to be no longer burning or alight; into darkness" is from c. 1400. Of position or situation, "beyond the bounds of, not within," early 15c. Meaning "into public notice" is from 1540s; that of "away from one's place of residence," c. 1600. The political sense of "not in office, removed or ejected from a position" is from c. 1600. Meaning "come into sight, become visible" (of stars, etc.) is by 1610s. In radio communication, a word indicating that the speaker has finished speaking, by 1950.
As a preposition, "out of; from, away from; outside of, beyond; except; without, lacking;" mid-13c., from the adverb.
Meaning "from harmonious relations, into quarreling" (as in to fall out) is from 1520s. Meaning "from one's normal state of mind" (as in put out) is from 1580s; out to lunch "insane" is student slang from 1955. Adjectival phrase out-of-the-way "remote, secluded" is attested from late 15c. Out-of-towner "one not from a certain place" is from 1911. Out of this world "excellent" is from 1938; out of sight "excellent, superior" is from 1891. To (verb) it out "bring to a finish" is from 1580s. Expression from here on out "henceforward" is by 1942. Out upon, expressing abhorrence or reproach, is from early 15c.