late 14c., "hallowed, consecrated, or made holy by association with divinity or divine things or by religious ceremony or sanction," past-participle adjective from a now-obsolete verb sacren "to make holy" (c. 1200), from Old French sacrer "consecrate, anoint, dedicate" (12c.) or directly from Latin sacrare "to make sacred, consecrate; hold sacred; immortalize; set apart, dedicate," from sacer (genitive sacri) "sacred, dedicated, holy, accursed." OED writes that, in sacred, "the original ppl. notion (as pronunciation indicates) disappeared from the use of the word, which is now nearly synonymous with L. sacer."
This is from Old Latin saceres, from PIE root *sak- "to sanctify." Buck groups it with Oscan sakrim, Umbrian sacra and calls it "a distinctive Italic group, without any clear outside connections." De Vaan has it from a PIE root *shnk- "to make sacred, sanctify," and finds cognates in Hittite šaklai "custom, rites," zankila "to fine, punish." Related: Sacredness. The Latin nasalized form is sancire "make sacred, confirm, ratify, ordain" (as in saint, sanction). An Old English word for "sacred" was godcund.
The meaning "of or pertaining to religion or divine things" (opposed to secular or profane) is by c. 1600. The transferred sense of "entitled to respect or reverence" is from 1550s. Sacred cow as an object of Hindu veneration is by 1793; its figurative sense of "one who or that which must not be criticized" is in use by 1910 in U.S. journalism, reflecting Western views of Hinduism. Sacred Heart "the heart of Jesus as an object of religious veneration" is by 1823, short for Sacred Heart of Jesus or Mary.
early 13c., "skin color, complexion," from Anglo-French culur, coulour, Old French color "color, complexion, appearance" (Modern French couleur), from Latin color "color of the skin; color in general, hue; appearance," from Old Latin colos, originally "a covering" (akin to celare "to hide, conceal"), from PIE root *kel- (1) "to cover, conceal, save." Old English words for "color" were hiw ("hue"), bleo. For sense evolution, compare Sanskrit varnah "covering, color," which is related to vrnoti "covers," and also see chroma.
Colour was the usual English spelling from 14c., from Anglo-French. Classical correction made color an alternative from 15c., and that spelling became established in the U.S. (see -or).
Meaning "a hue or tint, a visible color, the color of something" is from c. 1300. As "color as an inherent property of matter, that quality of a thing or appearance which is perceived by the eye alone," from late 14c. From early 14c. as "a coloring matter, pigment, dye." From mid-14c. as "kind, sort, variety, description." From late 14c. in figurative sense of "stylistic device, embellishment. From c. 1300 as "a reason or argument advanced by way of justifying, explaining, or excusing an action," hence "specious reason or argument, that which hides the real character of something" (late 14c.).
From c. 1300 as "distinctive mark of identification" (as of a badge or insignia or livery, later of a prize-fighter, horse-rider, etc.), originally in reference to a coat of arms. Hence figurative sense as in show one's (true) colors "reveal one's opinions or intentions;" compare colors.
In reference to "the hue of the darker (as distinguished from the 'white') varieties of mankind" [OED], attested from 1792, in people of colour, in translations from French in reference to the French colony of Saint-Domingue (modern Haiti) and there meaning "mulattoes."
In reference to musical tone from 1590s. Color-scheme is from 1860. Color-coded is by 1943, in reference to wiring in radios and military aircraft. Color-line in reference to social and legal discrimination by race in the U.S. is from 1875, originally referring to Southern whites voting in unity and taking back control of state governments during Reconstruction (it had been called white line about a year earlier, and with more accuracy).