early 13c., "a clasping, an embracing," verbal noun from clip (v.2). As a U.S. football penalty (not in OED), from 1920.
Clipping or Cutting Down from Behind. — This is to be ruled under unnecessary roughness, and penalized when it is practiced upon "a man obviously out of the play." This "clipping" is a tendency in the game that the committee is watching anxiously and with some fear. [Collier's, April 10, 1920]
early 14c., "a cutting, act of shearing off," verbal noun from clip (v.1). Sense of "a small piece cut off" is from late 15c. Meaning "an article cut from a newspaper" is from 1857.
"fasten, hold together by pressure," also (mostly archaic) "to embrace," from Old English clyppan "to embrace, clasp; surround; prize, honor, cherish," from Proto-Germanic *kluppjan (source also of Old Frisian kleppa "to embrace, love," Old High German klaftra, German klafter "fathom" (on notion of outstretched arms). Also compare Lithuanian glėbys "armful," globti "to embrace."
Meaning "to fasten, bind" is early 14c. Meaning "to fasten with clips" is from 1902. Related: Clipped. Original sense of the verb is preserved in U.S. football penalty (see clipping (n.1)).
"to cut or sever with a sharp instrument," c. 1200, from a Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse klippa, Swedish klippa, Danish klippe "clip, shear, cut"), which is probably echoic. Related: Clipped; clipping.
Meaning "to pronounce words in a shortened form" is from 1520s. The verb has a long association with shady activities, originally especially in reference to cutting or shaving metal from coins (c. 1400), but later extended to swindles from the sense "to shear sheep," hence clip-joint "place that overcharges outrageously" (1933, American English, a term from Prohibition).
To clip (someone's) wings, figuratively, "put a check on one's ambition" (1590s) is from the method of preventing a captive bird from flying.
"shears-like cutting tool for hair, etc.," 1876, agent noun from clip (v.1). Earlier they were clipping shears (mid-15c.).
late 14c., "shaving of the head or part of it," especially as a religious rite, from Anglo-French tonsure (mid-14c.), Old French tonsure "ecclesiastical tonsure; sheep-shearing" (14c.), from Latin tonsura "a shearing, clipping," from tonsus, past participle of tondere "to shear, shave, clip, crop," from PIE *tend-, from root *tem- "to cut." The verb is attested from 1706 (implied in tonsured). Related: Tonsuring.
in the internet sense, c. 2000, short for robot. Modern use has coincidental affinities with earlier uses, such as "parasitical worm or maggot" (1520s), which is of unknown origin; and Australian-New Zealand slang "worthless, troublesome person" (World War I-era). The method of minting new slang by clipping the heads off words does not seem to be old or widespread in English. Examples (za from pizza, zels from pretzels, rents from parents) are American English student or teen slang and seem to date back no further than late 1960s. Also compare borg, droid.