1550s, "little tuft," from Old French touffel (with diminutive suffix -et for French -el), diminutive of touffe (see tuft). Obsolete except in the nursery rhyme "Little Miss Muffet" (1843), where it has been felt to mean "hassock, footstool."
LITTLE Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet
And made of her knees such display
That the old fashioned spider,
Embarrassed beside her,
Was actually frightened away!
[Life magazine, Oct. 1, 1927]
"ornamental round tuft" (originally on a hat, etc.), 1897, an alteration of pompon "ornamental tuft; tuft-like flower head" (1748, pong-pong), from French pompon (1725), a word of unknown origin; perhaps related to Old French pompe "pomp."
also panoche, "coarse grade of sugar made in Mexico," 1847, from American Spanish panocha "brown sugar," perhaps ultimately from Latin panucula "tuft," diminutive of panus "tuft, swelling; ear of millet," from PIE root *pa- "to feed."
"highest point," Old English top "summit, crest, tuft," from Proto-Germanic *toppa- (source also of Old Norse toppr "tuft of hair," Old Frisian top "tuft," Old Dutch topp, Dutch top, Old High German zopf "end, tip, tuft of hair," German Zopf "tuft of hair"); no certain connections outside Germanic except a few Romanic words probably borrowed from Germanic.
Few Indo-European languages have a word so generic, which can be used of the upper part or surface of just about anything. More typical is German, which has Spitze for sharp peaks (mountains), oberfläche for the upper surface of flat things (such as a table). Meaning "highest position" is from 1620s; meaning "best part" is from 1660s. To go over the top is World War I slang for "start an attack," in reference to the top of the trenches; as "beyond reasonable limits, too far" it is recorded from 1968. Top of the world as "position of greatest eminence" is from 1670s. Top-of-the-line (adj.) is by 1950.