Old English impe, impa "young shoot, graft," from impian "to graft," probably an early Germanic borrowing from Vulgar Latin *imptus, from Late Latin impotus "implanted," from Greek emphytos, verbal adjective formed from emphyein "implant," from em- "in" + phyein "to bring forth, make grow," from PIE root *bheue- "to be, exist, grow." Compare Swedish ymp, Danish ympe "graft."
The sense of the word has shifted from plants to people, via the meaning "child, offspring" (late 14c., now obsolete), from the notion of "newness." The current meaning "little devil" is attested from 1580s, from common pejorative phrases such as imp of Satan. The extension from this to "mischievous or pert child" (1640s) unconsciously turns the word back toward its Middle English sense.
Suche appereth as aungelles, but in very dede they be ymps of serpentes. [Wynkyn de Worde, "The Pilgrimage of Perfection," 1526]
*bheuə-, also *bheu-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to be, exist, grow."
It forms all or part of: Bauhaus; be; beam; Boer; bondage; boodle; boom (n.1) "long pole;" boor; booth; bound (adj.2) "ready to go;" bower; bowery; build; bumpkin; busk; bustle (v.) "be active;" byre; bylaw; Eisteddfod; Euphues; fiat; forebear; future; husband; imp; Monophysite; neighbor; neophyte; phyletic; phylo-; phylum; phylogeny; physic; physico-; physics; physio-; physique; -phyte; phyto-; symphysis.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit bhavah "becoming," bhavati "becomes, happens," bhumih "earth, world;" Greek phyein "to bring forth, make grow," phytos, phyton "a plant," physis "growth, nature," phylon "tribe, class, race," phyle "tribe, clan;" Old English beon "be, exist, come to be, become, happen;" Old Church Slavonic byti "be," Greek phu- "become," Old Irish bi'u "I am," Lithuanian būti "to be," Russian byt' "to be."
1560s, a general term of endearment (also puggy), perhaps related to or a variant of puck (n.2); one of the earliest senses of pug is "sprite, imp" (1610s). The sense of "miniature dog" is from 1749 (pug-dog); that of "monkey" is from 1660s, perhaps on the notion of having a pert, ugly face like a little imp.
In John Milesius any man may reade
Of divels in Sarmatia honored
Call'd Kottri or Kibaldi ; such as wee
Pugs and hobgoblins call. Their dwellings bee
In corners of old houses least frequented,
Or beneath stacks of wood ; and these convented
Make fearfull noise in buttries and in dairies,
Robin good-fellowes some, some call them fairies.
[Thomas Heywood, "Hierarchie of the Blessed Angells," 1635]
The word, or identical words, at various times also meant "a husk of grain" (mid-15c.), "a bargeman" (1590s), "a harlot" (c. 1600), and "an upper servant in a great house" (1843), the last, if it is authentic, perhaps with a suggestion of "lap dog."
"I've seen him, father," said Nelly with a consequential air, "the day I was up at Fairfield Court; he came into Pug's Hole while the old lady was talking to me." For the benefit of the unlearned it should be mentioned that the under-servants "in respectable families" call upper-servants "Pugs;" and that the housekeeper's room is designated as "Pug's Hole." [F.E. Paget, "Warden of Berkingholt," 1843]
early 15c., "to give a part of (one's possessions);" late 15c., "to share, take part in," from Old French empartir, impartir "assign, allot, allocate, share out" (14c.), from Late Latin impartire (also impertire) "to share in, divide with another; communicate," from assimilated form of in- "into, in" (from PIE root *en "in") + partire "to divide, part" (from pars "a part, piece, a share," from PIE root *pere- (2) "to grant, allot").
Meaning "communicate as knowledge or information" is from 1540s; the word was not originally restricted to immaterial things but now usually is only in reference to qualities. Related: Imparted; imparting; impartment.