late 14c., repaste, "a meal, a feast; food, nourishment, act of taking food," from Old French repast (Modern French repas) "a meal, food," from Late Latin repastus "meal" (also source of Spanish repasto), noun use of past participle of repascere "to feed again," from re- "repeatedly" (see re-) + Latin pascere "to graze" (from PIE root *pa- "to feed"). The verb, "refresh oneself with food" (intransitive), is from late 15c.
It forms all or part of: antipasto; appanage; bannock; bezoar; companion; company; feed; fodder; food; forage; foray; foster; fur; furrier; impanate; pabulum; panatela; panic (n.2) "type of grass;" pannier; panocha; pantry; pastern; pastor; pasture; pester; repast; satrap.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek pateisthai "to feed;" Latin pabulum "food, fodder," panis "bread," pasci "to feed," pascare "to graze, pasture, feed," pastor "shepherd," literally "feeder;" Avestan pitu- "food;" Old Church Slavonic pasti "feed cattle, pasture;" Russian pishcha "food;" Old English foda, Gothic fodeins "food, nourishment."
Despite the form lunching in the 1650s source OED discounts that it possibly could be from lunch (v.), which is first attested more than a century later. It suggests perhaps an analogy with truncheon, etc., or to simulate a French origin. Especially in reference to an early afternoon meal eaten by those who have a noontime dinner.
The Court dinner-hour, in the reign of George III., was at the Hanoverian hour of four o'clock. During the reign of George IV. it gradually crept up to six o'clock, and finally became steady at the Indian hour of seven, and so remained until the reign of Her Most gracious Majesty, when the formal Court dinner-hour became eight o'clock. These innovations on the national hours of meals did not meet the approval of the medical faculty, and in consequence a dinette at two o'clock was prescribed. This has ever since been the favourite Court meal, being in reality a substantial hot repast, which has exploded the old-fashioned luncheon of cold viands. [The Queen newspaper, London, quoted in Imperial Dictionary, 1883]
"mid-day repast, small meal between breakfast and dinner," 1786, a shortened form of luncheon (q.v.) in this sense (1650s), which is of uncertain origin; it appears to be identical with an older word meaning "thick piece, hunk" (1570s), which perhaps evolved from lump (n.) [OED]. There also was a contemporary nuncheon "light mid-day meal," from noon + Middle English schench "drink." Old English had nonmete "afternoon meal," literally "noon-meat." The verb meaning "to take to lunch" (said to be from the noun) also is attested from 1786:
PRATTLE. I always to be ſure, makes a point to keep up the dignity of the family I lives in. Wou'd you take a more ſolid refreſhment?—Have you lunch'd, Mr. Bribe?
BRIBE. Lunch'd O dear! Permit me, my dear Mrs. Prattle, to refreſh my sponge, upon the honey dew that clings to your raviſhing pouters. O! Mrs. Prattle, this ſhall be my lunch. (kiſſes)
["The Mode," in William Davies' "Plays Written for a Private Theatre," London, 1786]
As late as 1817 the only definition of lunch (n.) in Webster's is "a large piece of food," but this is now obsolete or provincial. OED says in 1820s the word "was regarded either as a vulgarism or as a fashionable affectation." Related: Lunched; lunching.
Lunch money is attested from 1868. Lunch-time is from 1821; lunch hour is from 1840; lunch-break is from 1960. Slang phrase out to lunch "insane, stupid, clueless" first recorded 1955, on notion of being "not there."
Middle English mēte, from Old English mete "food, nourishment, sustenance" (paired with drink), "item of food; animal food, fodder," also "a meal, repast," from Proto-Germanic *mati (source also of Old Frisian mete, Old Saxon meti, Old Norse matr, Old High German maz, Gothic mats "food," Middle Dutch, Dutch metworst, German Mettwurst "type of sausage"), from PIE *mad-i-, from root *mad- "moist, wet," also with reference to food qualities, (source also of Sanskrit medas- "fat" (n.), Old Irish mat "pig;" see mast (n.2)).
Narrower sense of "flesh of warm-blooded animals killed and used as food" is attested from c. 1300 (earlier this was flesh-meat, early 12c.). There is a similar sense evolution in French viande "meat," originally "food." In Middle English, vegetables still could be called grene-mete (15c.) and white meat was "a dairy food or product" (early 15c.). Figurative sense of "essential part" is from 1901.
Dark meat and light meat in reference to the meat of fowls, based on the color when cooked, were popularized 19c., supposedly as euphemisms for leg or thigh and breast, but earliest sources use both sets of terms without apparent embarrassment.
The choicest parts of a turkey are the side bones, the breast, and the thigh bones. The breast and wings are called light meat; the thigh-bones and side-bones dark meat. When a person declines expressing a preference, it is polite to help to both kinds. [Lydia Maria Child, "The American Frugal Housewife," Boston, 1835]
First record of meat loaf is from 1876. Meat-market "place where one looks for sex partners" is from 1896 (meat in various sexual senses of "penis, vagina, body regarded as a sex object, prostitute" are attested from 1590s; Old English for "meat-market" was flæsccyping ('flesh-cheaping')); slang meat wagon "ambulance" is from 1920, American English slang, said to date from World War I (in a literal sense by 1857). Meat-grinder is by 1858 in the literal sense "device for grinding meat;" in the figurative sense it is attested by 1951. Meat-hook is by 1812; in the colloquial transferred sense "arm" it is attested by 1919.