especially in bone up "study," 1880s student slang, probably from or reinforced by "Bohn's Classical Library," the popular series in higher education published by German-born English publisher Henry George Bohn (1796-1884) as part of a broad series of "libraries" he issued from 1846, totaling 766 volumes, continued after 1864 by G. Bell & Sons. The other guess is that it is an allusion to knuckle-bones and has the same figurative sense as the colloquial verbal phrase knuckle down "get to work."
early 12c., "small monastery, subordinate monastery" (from Medieval Latin in this sense), later "small room for a monk or a nun in a monastic establishment; a hermit's dwelling" (c. 1300), from Latin cella "small room, store room, hut," related to Latin celare "to hide, conceal" (from PIE root *kel- (1) "to cover, conceal, save").
From "monastic room" the sense was extended to "prison room" (1722). The word was used in 14c., figuratively, of brain "compartments" as the abode of some faculty; it was used in biology by 17c. of various cavities (wood structure, segments of fruit, bee combs), gradually focusing to the modern sense of "basic structure of all living organisms" (which OED dates to 1845).
Electric battery sense is from 1828, based on the "compartments" in very early types. The meaning "small group of people working within a larger organization" is from 1925. Cell-body is from 1851, cell-division from 1846, cell-membrane from 1837 (cellular membrane is by 1732), cell wall is attested from 1842.
Middle English bon, from Old English ban "bone, tusk, hard animal tissue forming the substance of the skeleton; one of the parts which make up the skeleton," from Proto-Germanic *bainan (source also of Old Frisian and Old Saxon ben, Old Norse bein, Danish ben, German Bein). Absent in Gothic, with no cognates outside Germanic (the common PIE root is *ost-); the Norse, Dutch, and German cognates also mean "shank of the leg," and this is the main meaning in Modern German, but English seems never to have had this sense.
To work (one's) fingers to the bone is from 1809. To have a bone to pick (1560s) is an image of a dog struggling to crack or gnaw a bone (to pick a bone "strip a bone by picking or gnawing" is attested from late 15c.); to be a bone of contention (1560s) is of two dogs fighting over a bone; the images seem to have become somewhat merged. Also compare bones.
Bone-china, which is mixed with bone-dust, is so called by 1854. Bone-shaker (1874) was an old name for the early type of bicycle, before rubber tires.
type of steak, 1916, so called from the T-shaped bone that runs through it. The verb meaning "to strike (another car, bus, etc.) from the side" is by 1970, from adjectival use in reference to crashes, attested from 1952, from the position of the two vehicles at impact.