expression imitative of a punch, shot, collision, etc., by 1881, originally American English (Joel Chandler Harris).
"mixture of cement, material used (in building) for binding together stones or bricks," mid-13c., from Old French mortier "builder's mortar, plaster; bowl for mixing" (13c.) and directly from Latin mortarium "mortar, mixture of lime and sand," also "crushed drugs," which probably is the same word as mortarium "bowl for mixing or pounding" (see mortar (n.2)), with the sense transferred from the bowl to the material prepared in it. Dutch mortel, German Mörtel are from Latin or French.
"bowl for pounding, vessel in which substances are beaten to powder by means of a pestle," c. 1200, from Old French mortier "bowl; builder's mortar" and directly from Latin mortarium "bowl for mixing or pounding," also used of the material prepared in it, a word of unknown origin as it is impossible now to determine which sense was original. Watkins says probably from PIE root *mer- "to rub away, harm;" de Vaan finds this plausible. Late Old English had mortere, from the same Latin source, which might also be a source of the modern word. German Mörser also is from Latin.
c. 1400, "the cutting out of figures;" early 15c. as "the action of delivering blows with the fist," verbal noun from punch (v.). Related: Punching-bag "bag, generally large and heavy, suspended from the ceiling to be punched by an athlete, especially a boxer, for training or exercise" is by 1889 (also punch-bag); the figurative sense is attested by 1903.