1630s, "to engrave by eating away the surface of with acids," from Dutch etsen, from German ätzen "to etch," from Old High German azzon "give to eat; cause to bite, feed," from Proto-Germanic *atjanan, causative of *etanan "eat" (from PIE root *ed- "to eat"). Related: Etched; etching. The Etch A Sketch drawing toy was introduced 1960 by Ohio Art Company.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to eat," originally "to bite."
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit admi "I eat;" Avestan ad- "to eat;" Greek edo "I eat;" Latin edere "to eat;" Lithuanian ėdu "I eat," ėdžioti "to devour, bite;" Hittite edmi "I eat," adanna "food;" Armenian utem "I eat;" Old Church Slavonic jasti "to eat," Russian jest "to eat;" Old Irish ithim "I eat;" Gothic itan, Old Swedish and Old English etan, Old High German essan "to eat."
The earliest attested use is figurative of the literal one, which is from the popular medieval entertainment of setting dogs on some ferocious beast to bite and worry it. The verb also in Middle English could mean "put a horse or other domestic beast out to feed or graze," and, of persons, "to eat food," also figuratively "feast the eye" (late 14c.). Compare bait (n.). Related: Baited; baiting.