The concept is older than the word. Middle English had regrater "monopolist, one who buys up goods before they come to market" (late 14c.; early 13c. as a surname), from Old French regrateor and Medieval Latin regrator. There also was a verb, regrate, regrating.
Non-Intercourse Act, an act of the United States Congress of 1809 passed in retaliation for claims made by France and Great Britain affecting the commerce of the United States, and particularly the personal rights of United States seamen, continued 1809 and 1810, and against Great Britain 1811. It prohibited the entry of merchant vessels belonging to those countries into the ports of the United States, and the importation of goods grown or manufactured in those countries. [Century Dictionary]
early 15c., "commercial agent, deputy, one who buys or sells for another," from French facteur "agent, representative" (Old French factor, faitor "doer, author, creator"), from Latin factor "doer, maker, performer," in Medieval Latin, "agent," agent noun from past participle stem of facere "to do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). In commerce, especially "a commission merchant." Mathematical sense ("The Quantities given to be multiplied one by the other are called Factors") is from 1670s. Sense of "circumstance producing a result" is attested by 1816, from the mathematical sense.
Sense of "frequent and habitual meeting and contact, social communication between persons" is from 1540s. Meaning "mental or spiritual exchange or intercommunication" is from 1560s. Meaning "sexual relations" (1798) probably is a shortening of euphemistic sexual intercourse (1771) with intercourse in its sense "social contact and relations."
The white collar men are your clerks; they are your bookkeepers, your cashiers, your office men. We call them the 'white collar men' in order to distinguish them from the men who work with uniform and overalls and carry the dinner pails. The boys over on the West side got that name for them. It was supposed to be something a little better than they were. [Malcolm McDowell, quoted in Chicago Commerce, June 12, 1914]
White-collar crime attested by 1957 (there is a white-collar criminaloids from 1934).
1670s, "one who or that which cruises," agent noun from cruise (v.), or, probably, borrowed from similar words in continental languages (such as Dutch kruiser, French croiseur). In older use, a warship built to cruise and protect commerce of the state to which it belongs or chase hostile ships (but in 18c. often applied to privateers).
Like the frigate of olden days the cruiser relies primarily on her speed; and is employed to protect the trade-routes, to glean intelligence, and to act as the 'eyes of the fleet'. [Sir Geoffrey Callender, "Sea Passages," 1943]
Meaning "one who cruises for sex partners" is from 1903, in later use mostly of homosexuals; as a boxing weight class, from 1920; meaning "police patrol car" is 1929, American English.
late 14c., "path, track, course of action," introduced by the Hanse merchants, from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German trade "track, course" (probably originally of a ship), cognate with Old English tredan (see tread (v.)).
Sense of "one's habitual business" (1540s) developed from the notion of "way, course, manner of life" (mid-15c.); sense of "buying and selling, exchange of commodities" is from 1550s. Meaning "act of trading" is from 1829. Trade-name is from 1821; trade-route is from 1873; trade-war is from 1899. Trade union is attested from 1831. Trade wind (1640s) has nothing to do with commerce, but preserves the obsolete sense of "in a habitual or regular course."
c. 1500, "trade, commerce," from French trafique (15c.), from Italian traffico (14c.), from trafficare "carry on trade," of uncertain origin, perhaps from a Vulgar Latin *transfricare "to rub across," from Latin trans "across" (see trans-) + fricare "to rub" (see friction), with the original sense of the Italian verb being "touch repeatedly, handle."
Or the second element may be an unexplained alteration of Latin facere "to make, do." Klein suggests ultimate derivation of the Italian word from Arabic tafriq "distribution." Meaning "people and vehicles coming and going" first recorded 1825. Traffic jam is by 1908, ousting earlier traffic block (1895). Traffic circle is from 1938.
"of or pertaining to merchants, trade, or commerce," 1640s, from French mercantile (17c.), from Italian mercantile, from Medieval Latin mercantile, from Latin mercantem (nominative mercans) "a merchant," also "trading," present participle of mercari "to trade," from merx "wares, merchandise" (see market (n.)). Mercantile system first appears in Adam Smith (1776).
Mercantile system, in polit. econ., the belief generally held till the end of the last century, that all wealth consists in gold and silver, and that therefore the exportation of goods and importation of gold should be encouraged by the state, while the importation of goods and the exportation of gold should be forbidden, or at least restricted as much as possible. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
early 14c., "bed of a stream of water," from Old French chanel "bed of a waterway; tube, pipe, gutter," from Latin canalis "groove, channel, waterpipe" (see canal). Given a broader, figurative sense by 1530s: "that by which something passes or is transmitted" (of information, commerce, etc.); meaning "circuit for telegraph communication" (1848) probably led to that of "band of frequency for radio or TV signals" (1928).
Also "part of a sea making a passageway between land masses, a large strait" (1550s). English Channel is from 1825; the older name was British Channel (by 1730) or simply Channel (Shakespeare). John of Trevisa's Middle English translation of the encyclopedia De Proprietatibus Rerum (c. 1398) has frensshe see for "English Channel." The Channel Islands are the French Îles Anglo-Normandes.