1610s, "suitcase, soldier's kit bag," from French valise (16c.), from Italian valigia, a word of uncertain origin. Attested in Medieval Latin forms valisia (early 15c.), valixia (late 13c.). "The name is generally given to a leather case of moderate size, opening wide on a hinge or like a portfolio ...." [Century Dictionary]
"fabulous sea-creature, man above and fish below," c. 1600, literally "man of the sea," from first element in mermaid (q.v.) + man (n.). The gender-neutral merpeople (1849 "Kit Bam's Adventures") and merfolk (1846) "inhabitants of the sea with human bodies and fish-like tails" seem to be more recent formations.
"large, spotted cat of India," 1704, from Hindi chita "leopard," from Sanskrit chitraka "hunting leopard, tiger," literally "speckled," from chitra-s "distinctively marked, variegated, many-colored, bright, clear" (from PIE *kit-ro-, from root *skai- "to shine, gleam, be bright;" see shine (v.)) + kayah "body" (from PIE *kwei- "to build, make;" see poet).
"pool of money in a card game," 1884, American English, of uncertain origin. OED connects it with kit (n.1) in the 19c. sense of "collection of necessary supplies;" but perhaps it is rather from northern England slang kitty "prison, jail, lock-up" (1825), a word itself of uncertain origin.
By the Widow, or as it is more commonly known as "Kitty," is meant a percentage, taken in chips at certain occasions during the game of Poker. This percentage may be put to the account of the club where the game is being played, and defrays the cost of cards, use of chips, gas, attendance, etc. The Kitty may, however, be introduced when no expenses occur. ["The Standard Hoyle," New York, 1887]
c. 1300, "a supply or provision of food for one meal," from Old French mes "portion of food, course at dinner," from Late Latin missus "course at dinner," literally "a placing, a putting (on a table, etc.)," from past participle of mittere "to put, place," in classical Latin "to send, let go" (see mission). For sense evolution, compare early Middle English sonde "a serving of food or drink; a meal or course of a meal," from Old English sond, sand, literally "a sending," the noun form of send (v.).
Meaning "a communal eating place" (especially a military one) is attested by 1530s, from the earlier sense of "a company of persons eating together at the same table" (early 15c.), originally a group of four. The sense of "mixed food," especially "mixed food for animals" (1738), probably is what led to the contemptuous colloquial use of mess for "a jumble, a mixed mass" (1828) and the figurative sense of "state of confusion, a situation of disorder" (1834), as well as "condition of untidiness" (1851).
General use for "a quantity" of anything is attested by 1830. Meaning "excrement" (of animals) is from 1903. Mess-hall "area where military personnel eat and socialize" is by 1832. Mess-kit "the cooking- and table-utensils of a camp, with the chest in which they are kept" is by 1829. Mess-locker "a small locker on shipboard for holding mess-gear" is by 1829.
1937, coined in the fantasy tales of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973).
On a blank leaf I scrawled: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why. [Tolkien, letter to W.H. Auden, dated 1955]
The word also turns up in a very long list of folkloric supernatural creatures in the writings of Michael Aislabie Denham (d. 1859) as an aside to his explanation that those born on Christmas Eve cannot see spirits. Denham was an early folklorist who concentrated on Northumberland, Durham, Westmoreland, Cumberland, the Isle of Man, and Scotland. This was printed in volume 2 of "The Denham Tracts" [ed. James Hardy, London: Folklore Society, 1895], a compilation of Denham's scattered publications.
What a happiness this must have been seventy or eighty years ago and upwards, to those chosen few who had the good luck to be born on the eve of this festival of all festivals; when the whole earth was so overrun with ghosts, boggles, bloody-bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, specters, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars' lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks necks, waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins Gyre-carling, pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape, make, form, fashion, kind and description, that there was not a village in England that had not its own peculiar ghost. Nay, every lone tenement, castle, or mansion-house, which could boast of any antiquity had its bogle, its specter, or its knocker. The churches, churchyards, and crossroads were all haunted. Every green lane had its boulder-stone on which an apparition kept watch at night. Every common had its circle of fairies belonging to it. And there was scarcely a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit!
[Emphasis added] It is curious that the name occurs nowhere else in folklore, and there is no evidence that Tolkien ever saw this. The word also was recorded from 1835 as "a term generally used in Wales to express a quantity made up of four Welsh pecks" [in English court records for Hughes vs. Humphreys, a weights-and-measures case]. Hobbitry attested from 1947.