"cause a flaw or defect in," early 15c. (implied in flawed); see flaw (n.). Related: Flawing.
early 14c., "a flake" (of snow), also in Middle English "a spark of fire; a splinter," from Old Norse flaga "stone slab, layer of stone" (see flag (n.2)), perhaps used here in an extended sense. Old English had floh stanes, but the Middle English form suggests a Scandinavian origin. "The close resemblance in sense between flaw and flake is noteworthy" [OED]. Sense of "defect, fault" first recorded 1580s, first of character, later (c. 1600) of material things; probably via notion of a "fragment" broken off.
"inflammation on a finger or toe," mid-15c., alteration of whitflaw (c. 1400), from flaw, with first element possibly from Dutch vijt or Low German fit "abscess."
also *plāk-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to be flat;" extension of root *pele- (2) "flat; to spread."
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek plakoeis "flat," plax "level surface, anything flat;" Lettish plakt "to become flat;" Old Norse flaga "layer of earth," Norwegian flag "open sea," Old English floh "piece of stone, fragment," Old High German fluoh "cliff."
"tragic flaw," Greek, literally "fault, failure, guilt, sin" from hamartanein "to fail of one's purpose; to err, sin," originally "to miss the mark," from PIE *hemert- "to miss, fail." "The aspiration must be analogical. The word has no known cognates, but the reconstructed root looks perfectly IE" [Robert Beekes, "Etymological Dictionary of Greek"].
1540s, "calamitous, disastrous, fatal" ("resembling the actions in a stage tragedy"), shortened from tragical (late 15c.), modeled on Latin tragicus, from Greek tragikos "of or pertaining to tragedy; stately, majestic; plaintive," literally "goatish, of or pertaining to a goat," and perhaps referring to a satyr impersonated by a goat singer or satyric actor, from tragodia (see tragedy). Tragic flaw (1913) translates Greek hamartia. Related: Tragically.
late 15c., "break down in health," from craze (v.) in its Middle English sense of "to shatter, break to pieces." In 16c. also "a flaw, a defect, an infirmity." Perhaps via a notion of "mental breakdown," by 1813 the sense was extended to "mania, irrational fancy, fad," or, as The Century Dictionary defines it, "An unreasoning or capricious liking or affectation of liking, more or less sudden and temporary, and usually shared by a number of persons, especially in society, for something particular, uncommon, peculiar, or curious ..." .
also sherd, "piece or fragment," especially "piece of baked clay, piece of broken pottery or tile," from Old English sceard "incision, cleft, gap; potshard, a fragment, broken piece," from Proto-Germanic *skardaz (source also of Middle Dutch schaerde "a fragment, a crack," Dutch schaard "a flaw, a fragment," German Scharte "a notch," Danish skaar "chink, potsherd"), a past participle from PIE root *sker- (1) "to cut."
Meaning "fragment of broken earthenware" developed in late Old English. Also used, by Gower (late 14c.), as "scale of a dragon." French écharde "prickle, splinter" is a Germanic loan-word.