late 14c., "cross out with lines, draw lines across (something written) so as to deface," from Anglo-French and Old French canceler, from Latin cancellare "to make like a lattice," which in Late Latin took on especially a sense "cross out something written" by marking it with crossed lines, from cancelli, plural of *cancellus (n.) "lattice, grating," diminutive of cancer "crossed bars, a lattice," a variant of carcer "prison" (see incarceration).
The figurative use, "to nullify (an obligation, etc.)" is from mid-15c. Related: Canceled (also cancelled); cancelling.
also cancelation, "act of cancelling," 1530s, from Latin cancellationem (nominative cancellatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of cancellare "to cancel" (see cancel). Of reservations for conveyances, hotels, etc., from 1953. Earlier (early 15c.) in medical writing, in reference to the crossing of retinal images.
c. 1300, "enclosed space in a church around the altar," from Old French chancel, from Late Latin cancellus "lattice," from Latin cancelli (plural) "grating, bars" (see cancel); the sense was extended in Late Latin from the lattice-work that separated the choir from the nave in a church to the space itself.
"abrogate, annul, or revoke by authority, repeal," 1630s, from French rescinder "cancel; cut off" (15c.), and directly from Latin rescindere "annul, cancel, abolish, remove by cutting off," from re- "back" (see re-) + scindere "to cut, rend, tear asunder, split; split up, part, divide, separate" (from PIE *skind-, from root *skei- "to cut, split"). Related: Rescinded; rescinding.
late 14c., "invalidate, make void, nullify;" from Anglo-French and Old French anuler "cancel, wipe out" (13c.) or directly from Late Latin annullare "to make to nothing," from Latin ad "to" (see ad-) + nullum, neuter of nullus "nothing, none" (from PIE root *ne- "not"). Related: Annulled; annulling.
also washout, 1877, "act of washing out" (a drain, etc.), from verbal phrase; see wash (v.) + out (adv.). From 1873 as "excavation of a roadbed, etc., by erosion" is from 1873. Meaning "a disappointing failure" is from 1902, from verbal phrase wash out "obliterate, cancel" (something written in ink), attested from 1570s. Hence also the colloquial sense of "to call off (an event) due to bad weather, etc." (1917). Of colored material, washed-out "faded" is from 1837.