c. 1500, "to tie up with cables," from cable (n.). As "to transmit by telegraph cable," 1868. Related: Cabled; cabling.
We have done our part lately to bring into use the verb cabled, as applied to a message over the Atlantic cable. It is proper to say "it has been cabled," instead of "it has been telegraphed over the Atlantic cable." [The Mechanics Magazine, London, Sept. 11, 1868]
But other British sources list it as an Americanism.
c. 1200, "large, strong rope or chain used on a ship," from Old North French cable, from Medieval Latin capulum "lasso, rope, halter for cattle," from Latin capere "to take, seize," from PIE root *kap- "to grasp."
Technically, in nautical use, a rope 10 or more inches around, to hold the ship when at anchor; in non-nautical use, a rope of wire (not hemp or fiber). Given a new range of senses in 19c. in telegraphy (1850s), traction-railroads (1880s), etc. Meaning "message received by telegraphic cable" is from 1883, short for cable message (1870), cablegram (1868), cable dispatch (1864). Cable television first attested 1963; shortened form cable in this sense is from 1970.
Speed, speed the Cable; let it run,
A loving girdle round the earth,
Till all the nations 'neath the sun
Shall be as brothers at one hearth;
[T. Buchanan Read, "The Cable," 1858]
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to grasp."
It forms all or part of: accept; anticipate; anticipation; behave; behoof; behoove; cable; cacciatore; caitiff; capable; capacious; capacity; capias; capiche; capstan; caption; captious; captivate; captive; captor; capture; case (n.2) "receptacle;" catch; catchpoll; cater; chase (n.1) "a hunt;" chase (v.) "to run after, hunt;" chasse; chasseur; conceive; cop (v.) "to seize, catch;" copper (n.2) "policeman;" deceive; emancipate; except; forceps; gaffe; haft; have; hawk (n.); heave; heavy; heft; incapacity; inception; incipient; intercept; intussusception; manciple; municipal; occupy; participation; perceive; precept; prince; purchase; receive; recipe; recover; recuperate; sashay; susceptible.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit kapati "two handfuls;" Greek kaptein "to swallow, gulp down," kope "oar, handle;" Latin capax "able to hold much, broad," capistrum "halter," capere "to grasp, lay hold; be large enough for; comprehend;" Lettish kampiu "seize;" Old Irish cacht "servant-girl," literally "captive;" Welsh caeth "captive, slave;" Gothic haban "have, hold;" Old English hæft "handle," habban "to have, hold."
In lexicons of sea language going back to 1759, the bitter end is the part of a cable which is round about the bitts (the two great timbers used to belay cables) when the ship is at anchor (see bitt).
Bitter end of the Cable, the End which is wound about the Bitts. ["The News-Readers Pocket-Book: Or, a Military Dictionary," London, 1759]
So, when a cable is played out to the bitter end, there is no more left to play. The term began to be used c. 1835 in non-nautical use and with probable influence of or merger with bitter (adj.).