Middle English holden, earlier halden, from Old English haldan (Anglian), healdan (West Saxon), "to contain; to grasp; to retain (liquid, etc.); to observe, fulfill (a custom, etc.); to have as one's own; to have in mind (of opinions, etc.); to possess, control, rule; to detain, lock up; to foster, cherish, keep watch over; to continue in existence or action; to keep back from action," class VII strong verb (past tense heold, past participle healden), from Proto-Germanic *haldanan (source also of Old Saxon haldan, Old Frisian halda, Old Norse halda, Dutch houden, German halten "to hold," Gothic haldan "to tend").
Based on the Gothic sense (also present as a secondary sense in Old English), the verb is presumed originally in Germanic to have meant "to keep, tend, watch over" (as grazing cattle), later "to have." Ancestral sense is preserved in behold. The original past participle holden was replaced by held beginning 16c., but survives in some legal jargon and in beholden.
The modern use in the sense "lock up, keep in custody" is from 1903. Hold back in the figurative senses is from 1530s (transitive); 1570s (intransitive). To hold off is early 15c. (transitive), c. 1600 (intransitive). Hold on is early 13c. as "to maintain one's course," 1830 as "to keep one's grip on something," 1846 as an order to wait or stop.
To hold (one's) tongue "be silent" is from c. 1300. To hold (one's) own is from early 14c. To hold (someone's) hand in the figurative sense of "give moral support" is from 1935. To hold (one's) horses "be patient" is from 1842, American English; the notion is of keeping a tight grip on the reins. To have and to hold have been paired alliteratively at least since c. 1200, originally of marriage but also of real estate. To hold water in the figurative sense "be sound or consistent throughout" is from 1620s.
"space in a ship below the lower deck, in which cargo is stowed," 15c. corruption of Middle English holl "hull of a ship, hold of a ship" (c.1400), which is probably from earlier Middle English nouns meaning either "hole, hollow place, compartment" (see hole (n.)) and "husk, pod, shell," (see hull (n.1)). With form altered in the direction of hold (probably by popular apprehension that it is named because it "holds" the cargo) and sense influenced by Middle Dutch hol "hold of a ship."
c. 1100, "act of holding;" c. 1200, "grasp, grip," from Old English geheald (Anglian gehald) "keeping, custody, guard; watch, protector, guardian," from hold (v.). Meaning "place of refuge" is from c. 1200; that of "fortified place" is from c. 1300; that of "place of imprisonment" is from late 14c. Wrestling sense is from 1713. Telephoning sense is from 1961 (on hold), from expression hold the line, warning that one is away from the receiver (1912). Meaning "a delay, a pause" is from 1961 in the U.S. space program. No holds barred "with all restrictions removed" is from 1892, originally in wrestling.
also holdout, one who abstains or refrains when others do not, by 1911, from verbal expression hold out, which is attested from 1907 in the sense "keep back, detain, withhold" (see hold (v.) + out (adv.)). Earlier as the name of a card-sharper's device (1893). The verbal phrase is attested from 1520s as "stretch forth," 1580s as "resist pressure."
also holdup, 1837, "a stoppage or check," from verbal phrase (see hold (v.) + up (adv.)). The verbal phrase is from late 13c. as "to keep erect; support, sustain;" 1580s as "endure, hold out;" 1590s (intransitive) as "to stop, cease, refrain;" 1860 as "to stay up, not fall." The meaning "to stop by force and rob" is from 1887, from the robber's command to raise hands. The noun in this sense is from 1851.
"in possession of narcotics," 1935, special use of present-participle adjective from hold (v.).