"piece of shaped cloth spread so as to catch the wind and cause a vessel to move in water," Old English segl "sail, veil, curtain," from Proto-Germanic *seglom (source also of Old Saxon, Swedish segel, Old Norse segl, Old Frisian seil, Dutch zeil, Old High German segal, German Segel), of obscure origin with no known cognates outside Germanic (Irish seol, Welsh hwyl "sail" are Germanic loan-words). In some sources (Klein, OED) referred to PIE root *sek- "to cut," as if meaning "a cut piece of cloth."
As "a single ship or vessel" by 1510s. To take the wind out of (someone's) sails (1888) is to deprive (someone) of the means of progress, especially by sudden and unexpected action, "as by one vessel sailing between the wind and another vessel" ["The Encyclopaedic Dictionary," 1888].
"fish for shrimp," 1801 (implied in shrimping), from shrimp (n.). Related: Shrimper "person who catches shrimp; vessel engaged in shrimping" (1808).
"vessel with a long neck bent downward, used in chemistry for distilling or effecting decomposition by the aid of heat," c. 1600, from French retorte, from Medieval Latin *retorta "a retort, a vessel with a bent neck," literally "a thing bent or twisted," from past-participle stem of Latin retorquere "turn back, twist back, throw back," from re- "back" (see re-) + torquere "to twist" (from PIE root *terkw- "to twist").
large, deep-built vessel used for trading but fitted for fighting, late 14c., from Old French caraque "large, square-rigged sailing vessel," from Spanish carraca, related to Medieval Latin carraca, Italian caracca, all of uncertain origin, perhaps from Arabic qaraqir, plural of qurqur "merchant ship." The Arabic word itself perhaps was from Latin carricare "to load a car" (see charge (v.)) or Greek karkouros "boat, pinnacle."
"small, flat-bottomed boat," especially one sent out from a larger vessel to catch fish, 1709, American English, perhaps from a West Indian or Central American Indian language.
"single-masted native vessel used on Arabian Sea," later widely applied to all Arab vessels, 1799, original language and meaning unknown. Klein suggests a relation to Persian dav "running."