c. 1200, "false, treacherous, deceptive, deceitful, crafty" (obsolete), probably from Old English ficol "deceitful, cunning, tricky," related to befician "deceive," and to facen "deceit, treachery; blemish, fault." Common Germanic (compare Old Saxon fekan "deceit," Old High German feihhan "deceit, fraud, treachery"), from the same source as foe.
Sense of "changeable, inconstant, unstable" is from c. 1300 (especially of Fortune and women). Related: Fickleness. Fickly (c. 1300) is rare or obsolete. Also with a verb form in Middle English, fikelen "to deceive, flatter," later "to puzzle, perplex," which survived long enough in Northern dialects to get into Scott's novels. Fikel-tonge (late 14c.) was an allegorical or character name for "one who speaks falsehoods."
late 14c., of persons, "apt to change, fickle," from Old French variable "various, changeable, fickle," from Late Latin variabilis "changeable," from variare "to change" (see vary). Of weather, seasons, etc., attested from late 15c.; of stars, from 1788.
1590s, "humorous;" c. 1600, "apt to change the mind suddenly, fickle," from French capricieux "whimsical" (16c.), from Italian capriccioso, from capriccio (see caprice). Related: Capriciously; capriciousness.
early 13c., "fickle, shifting, unstable," from Old English fleotende "floating, drifting," later "flying, moving swiftly," from present participle of fleotan "to float, drift, flow" (see fleet (v.)). Meaning "existing only briefly" is from 1560s. Related: Fleetingly.