early 14c., "to bear or convey, take along or transport," from Anglo-French carier "to transport in a vehicle" or Old North French carrier "to cart, carry" (Modern French charrier), from Gallo-Roman *carrizare, from Late Latin carricare, from Latin carrum originally "two-wheeled Celtic war chariot," from Gaulish (Celtic) karros, from PIE *krsos, from root *kers- "to run."
Meaning "take by force, gain by effort" is from 1580s. Sense of "gain victory, bear to a successful conclusion" is from 1610s; specifically in reference to elections from 1848, American English. Meaning "to conduct, manage" (often with an indefinite it) is from 1580s. Meaning "bear up and support" is from 1560s. Commercial sense of "keep in stock" is from 1848. In reference to mathematical operations from 1798. Of sound, "to be heard at a distance" by 1858.
To carry out "conduct to completion" is from c. 1600. To carry it off "brazen a thing out" is from 1704; carried off as a euphemism for "killed" is from 1670s. To be carried (away) in the figurative sense "transported, having the attention fully absorbed" is from 1560s. Carrying capacity is attested from 1836. Carry-castle (1590s) was an old descriptive term for an elephant.
c. 1200, "two-wheeled vehicle," usually for one horse and often without springs, from Old Norse kartr or a similar Scandinavian source, akin to and replacing Old English cræt "cart, wagon, chariot," perhaps originally "body of a cart made of wickerwork, hamper" and related to Middle Dutch cratte "woven mat, hamper," Dutch krat "basket," Old English cradol (see cradle (n.)).
Many old allusions are from the cart being used to convey offenders to the gallows (and sometimes serving as a drop for hangings) or for public exposure, especially of lewd women, either in the cart or tied to its tail. Compare tumbrel. To put the cart before the horse in a figurative sense "reverse the natural or proper order of things" is from 1510s in those words; the image in other words dates to mid-14c.: put the plow (sull) before the oxen.