"loud, disorderly, confusing noise," 1560s, probably imitative. Klein and Century Dictionary compare Gaelic racaid "noise, disturbance," but OED says this "is no doubt from Eng."
Meaning "dishonest activity" (1785) is perhaps an extended sense, from the notion of "something going on" or "noise or disturbance made to distract a pick-pocket's victim." Or it might be from racquet, via the notion of "a game," or from or reinforced by rack-rent "extortionate rent." There also was a verb racket "carry on eager or energetic action" (1753), and the gangster sense might be via the notion of "exciting and unusual." Weakened sense of "way of life, one's line of business" is by 1891.
"member of a criminal gang practicing extortion, 'protection,' intimidation, etc.," 1927, a word from Prohibition, from racket (n.1) in the "dishonest activity" sense + -eer. Earlier (1926) in reference to organizers of fraudulent bankruptcies. By 1928 as a verb. Related: Racketeering, verbal noun (1927).
[A] racketeer is nothing more nor less than a gangster who has organized thuggery along business lines. ["What is a Racketeer?" Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 7, 1928]
1610s, "act of squashing," from squash (v.). The racket game called by that name 1899; earlier (1886) it was the name of the soft rubber ball used in it.
"handled instrument to strike the ball in tennis, etc.," c. 1500, probably extended from earlier racket "tennis-like game played with open hand" (late 14c.), from Old French rachette, requette, rechete, resquette (Modern French raquette) "racket for hitting; the palm of the hand," which is of uncertain origin.
Perhaps it comes via Italian racchetta or Spanish raqueta, both often said to be from Arabic rāhat, a form of rāha "palm of the hand," but this has been doubted. Compare French jeu de paume "tennis," literally "play with the palm of the hand," and compare tennis.
mid-15c., "bat-like implement used in washing clothes," of unknown origin, perhaps from Old Provençal batedor, Spanish batidor "beater, bat," from batir "to beat;" perhaps blended with Middle English betel "hammer, mallet" (see beetle (n.2)). As a type of racket used in a game, from 1590s, so called from similarity of shape.
1762, hollo-ballo (with many variant spellings) "uproar, racket, noisy commotion," chiefly in northern England and Scottish, perhaps a rhyming reduplication of hollo (see hello). Bartlett ("Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848) has it as hellabaloo "riotous noise; confusion," and says it is provincial in England.
1854, Anglo-Indian, said to be from Hindustani gend-khana, literally "ball house," said in Yule & Burnell's 1886 glossary of Anglo-Indian words to be "the name usually given in Hindu to an English racket-court." The second element is from Middle Persian khan "house," from Iranian *ahanam "seat," from PIE *es- "to sit." Altered in English by influence of gymnasium, etc.
also shortchange, "to cheat by giving too little change to," by 1893, American English (implied in short-changed), from adjectival expression short-change (with man, worker, operator, trick, racket, etc.), by 1886, from short (adj.) + change (n.) in the money sense. In late 19c. they were among the shady hangers on of traveling circuses. The noun phrase short change for "insufficient change" is attested by 1850. Related: Short-changing.