early 15c., riplen, "to crease, wrinkle;" 1660s, "to present a ruffled surface," of obscure origin, perhaps a frequentative of rip (v.), and compare rip (n.2) and rumple. Transitive sense, in reference to the surface of water, "cause to ripple, agitate lightly," is from 1786. Related: Rippled; rippling.
"very small wave," 1798, from earlier meaning "stretch of shallow, rippling water" (1755), from ripple (v.). The meaning "light ruffling of the surface suggestive of a ripple" is from 1843.
The meaning "ice cream streaked with colored syrup" is attested by 1939, so called from its appearance. In reference to the ripple-rings in water from a cast stone, by 1884. (Chaucer, late 14c., used roundel "a little circle" for that.) As the name of a brand of inexpensive wine sold by E&J Gallo Winery, from 1960 to 1984. In geology, ripple-mark "wavy surface on sand formed by wind or water" is by 1833. Ripple effect "continuous spreading results of an event or action" is from 1950.