early 15c., "a playing card," from Old French carte (14c.), from Medieval Latin carta/charta "a card, paper; a writing, a charter," from Latin charta "leaf of paper, a writing, tablet," from Greek khartēs "layer of papyrus," which is probably from Egyptian. The form has been influenced by Italian cognate carta "paper, leaf of paper." Compare chart (n.). The shift in English from -t to -d is unexplained.
The sense of "playing cards" also is the oldest of the French word. The sense in English was extended by 1590s to similar small, flat, stiff pieces of paper. As "small piece of cardboard upon which is written or printed the name, address, etc. of the person presenting it," from 1795: visiting-cards for social calls, business-cards announcing one's profession. The meaning "printed ornamental greetings for special occasions" is from 1862.
Application to clever or original persons (1836, originally with an adjective, as in smart card) is from the playing-card sense, via expressions such as sure card "an expedient certain to attain an object" (c. 1560).
Card-sharper "professional cheat at cards" is from 1859. House of cards in the figurative sense "any insecure or flimsy scheme" is from 1640s, first attested in Milton, from children's play. To (figuratively) have a card up (one's) sleeve is from 1898. To play the _______ card (for political advantage) is from 1886, originally the Orange card, meaning "appeal to Northern Irish Protestant sentiment."
Cards are first mentioned in Spain in 1371, described in detail in Switzerland in 1377, and by 1380 reliably reported from places as far apart as Florence, Basle, Regensburg, Brabant, Paris, and Barcelona. References are also claimed for earlier dates, but these are relatively sparse and do not withstand scrutiny. [David Parlett, "A History of Card Games"]
1540s, "to play cards" (now obsolete), from card (n.1). From 1925 as "to write (something) on a card for filing." Meaning "require (someone) to show an identification card" is from 1970s. Related: Carded; carding.
"implement or machine for combing, brush with wire teeth used in disentangling fibers for spinning," late 14c. (mid-14c. in surname Cardmaker), from Old French carde "card, teasel," from Old Provençal cardo or some other Romanic source (compare Spanish and Italian carda "thistle, tease, card," back-formation from cardar "to card" (see card (v.2)). The English word probably also comes via Anglo-Latin cardo, from Medieval Latin carda "a teasel," from Latin carduus.
Old English hol (adj.) "hollow, concave;" as a noun, "hollow place; cave; orifice; perforation," from Proto-Germanic *hulan (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German hol, Middle Dutch hool, Old Norse holr, German hohl "hollow," Gothic us-hulon "to hollow out"), from PIE root *kel- (1) "to cover, conceal, save." As an adjective, it has been displaced by hollow, which in Old English was only a noun, meaning "excavated habitation of certain wild animals."
As a contemptuous word for "small dingy lodging or abode" it is attested from 1610s. Meaning "a fix, scrape, mess" is from 1760. Obscene slang use for "vulva" is implied from mid-14c. Golfing hole-in-one is from 1914; as a verbal phrase from 1913. To need (something) like a hole in the head, applied to something useless or detrimental, first recorded 1944 in entertainment publications, probably a translation of a Yiddish expression such as ich darf es vi a loch in kop.
"to make a hole," Old English holian "to hollow out, scoop out," from source of hole (n.). Related: Holed; holing. To hole up "seek a temporary shelter or hiding place" is from 1875.
in astrophysics, 1968, probably with awareness of the notorious Black Hole of Calcutta, incident of June 19, 1756, in which 146 British POWs taken by the Nawab of Bengal after the capture of Fort William were held overnight in a punishment cell of the barracks (meant to hold 4 people) and all but 23 perished.