Etymology
Advertisement
tick-tack-toe (n.)

children's three-in-a-row game with Xs and Os, so called by 1892, earlier tit-tat-toe (by 1852, in reminiscences of earlier years), also called noughts and crosses (1852), also oughts and crosses. Probably from the sound of the pencil on the slate with which it originally was played by schoolboys. Also the name of a children's counting rhyme played on slate (also originally tit-tat-toe, by 1842), and compare tick-tack (1580s), a form of backgammon, possibly from French trictrac, perhaps imitative of the sound of tiles on the board.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
tick (n.1)
parasitic blood-sucking arachnid animal, Old English ticia, from West Germanic *tik- (source also of Middle Dutch teke, Dutch teek, Old High German zecho, German Zecke "tick"), of unknown origin, perhaps from PIE *deigh- "insect." French tique (mid-15c.), Italian zecca are Germanic loan-words.
Related entries & more 
toe (v.)

"touch or reach with the toes," 1813, from toe (n.). First recorded in expression toe the mark, which seems to be nautical in origin.

The chief mate ... marked a line on the deck, brought the two boys up to it, making them "toe the mark." [Richard H. Dana, "Two Years Before the Mast," 1840]

Related: Toed; toeing.

Related entries & more 
toe (n.)

Old English ta "toe" (plural tan), contraction of *tahe (Mercian tahæ), from Proto-Germanic *taihwō(n) (source also of Old Norse ta, Old Frisian tane, Middle Dutch te, Dutch teen (perhaps originally a plural), Old High German zecha, German Zehe "toe"). Perhaps originally meaning "fingers" as well (many PIE languages still use one word to mean both fingers and toes), and thus from PIE root *deik- "to show."

Þo stode hii I-armed fram heued to þe ton. [Robert of Gloucester, "Chronicle," c. 1300]

The old plural survived regionally into Middle English as tan, ton. To be on (one's) toes "alert, eager" is recorded from 1921. To step on (someone's) toes in the figurative sense "give offense" is from late 14c. Toe-hold "support for the toe of a boot in climbing" is from 1880.

Related entries & more 
tack (n.2)
"horse's harness, etc.," 1924, shortening of tackle (n.) in sense of "equipment." Tack in a non-equestrian sense as a shortening of tackle is recorded in dialect from 1777.
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
tack (n.3)
"food" in general, but in dialect especially "bad food," and especially among sailors "food of a bread kind," 1833, perhaps a shortening and special use of tackle (n.) in the sense of "gear." But compare tack "taste" (c. 1600), perhaps a variant of tact.
Related entries & more 
tack (v.2)
"turn a ship's course toward the wind at an angle," 1550s, from tack (n.1) in the ship-rigging sense (the ropes were used to move the vessel temporarily to one side or another of its general line of course, to take advantage of a side-wind); hence tack (n.) "course of conduct or mode of action suited to some purpose" (1670s), from figurative use of the verb (1630s). Related: Tacked; tacking.
Related entries & more 
tick (v.)
early 13c., "to touch or pat," perhaps from an Old English verb corresponding to tick (n.2), and perhaps ultimately echoic. Compare Old High German zeckon "to pluck," Dutch tikken "to pat," Norwegian tikke "touch lightly." Meaning "make a ticking sound" is from 1721. Related: Ticked; ticking.

To tick (someone) off is from 1915, originally "to reprimand, scold." The verbal phrase tick off was in use in several senses at the time: as what a telegraph instrument does when it types out a message (1873), as what a clock does in marking the passage of time (1777), to enumerate on one's fingers (1899), and in accountancy, etc., "make a mark beside an item on a sheet with a pencil, etc.," often indicating a sale (by 1881, from tick (n.2) in sense "small mark or dot"). This last might be the direct source of the phrase, perhaps via World War I military bureaucratic sense of being marked off from a list as "dismissed" or "ineligible." Meaning "to annoy" is recorded by 1971.
Related entries & more 
tick (n.2)
mid-15c., "light touch or tap," probably from tick (v.) and cognate with Dutch tik, Middle High German zic, and perhaps echoic. Meaning "sound made by a clock" is probably first recorded 1540s; tick-tock as the sound of a clock is recorded from 1845.
Related entries & more 
tick (n.3)
"credit," 1640s, shortening of ticket (n.).
Related entries & more