late 13c., passen (transitive), "to go by (something)," also "to cross over," from Old French passer "to pass" (11c.), from Vulgar Latin *passare "to step, walk, pass" (source also of Spanish pasar, Italian passare), from Latin passus "step, pace" (from PIE root *pete- "to spread").
Intransitive sense of "to go on, to move forward, make one's way" is attested from c. 1300. The figurative sense of "to experience, undergo" (as in pass the time) is recorded from late 14c. Sense of "to go through an examination successfully" is from early 15c. Meaning "decline to do something" is attested from 1869, originally in cards (euchre). In football, hockey, soccer, etc., the meaning "to transfer the ball or puck to another player" is from c. 1865. Related: Passed; passing.
The meaning "to be thought to be something one is not" (especially in a racial sense) is from 1935, from pass oneself off(as), which is attested by 1809. The general verb sense of "to be accepted as equivalent" is from 1590s. Pass up "decline, refuse" is attested from 1896. Pass the buck is from 1865, said to be poker slang reference to the buck horn-handled knife that was passed around to signify whose turn it was to deal. Pass the hat "seek contributions" is from 1762. Pass-fail as a grading method is attested from 1955, American English.
early 13c., "gesture or motion of the hand," especially one meant to communicate something, from Old French signe "sign, mark," from Latin signum "identifying mark, token, indication, symbol; proof; military standard, ensign; a signal, an omen; sign in the heavens, constellation."
According to Watkins, literally "standard that one follows," from PIE *sekw-no-, from root *sekw- (1) "to follow." But de Vaan has it from PIE *sekh-no- "cut," from PIE root *sek- "to cut" He writes: "The etymological appurtenance to seco 'to cut' implies a semantic shift of *sek-no- 'what is cut out', 'carved out' > 'sign'." But he also also compares Hebrew sakkin, Aramaic sakkin "slaughtering-knife," and mentions a theory that "both words are probably borrowed from an unknown third source."
It has ousted native token. Meaning "a mark or device having some special importance" is recorded from late 13c.; that of "a miracle" is from c. 1300. Zodiacal sense in English is from mid-14c. Sense of "characteristic device attached to the front of an inn, shop, etc., to distinguish it from others" is first recorded mid-15c. Meaning "token or signal of some condition" (late 13c.) is behind sign of the times (1520s). In some uses, the word probably is a shortening of ensign. Sign language is recorded from 1847; earlier hand-language (1670s).