also make-shift, 1560s, as a noun, "shifty person, rogue" (a sense now obsolete; for the formation, compare makeweight), from make (v.) + shift (n.). As an adjective, 1680s, "of the nature of a temporary expedient," which led to the noun sense of "that with which one meets a present need or turn, a temporary substitute" (by 1802).
MAKE WEIGHT. A small candle: a term applied to a little slender man. [Grose, "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," London, 1785]
For the formation, compare makeshift, also make-sport (1610s), makegame (1762) "a laughing stock, a butt for jokes;" makebate "one who excites contentions and quarrels" (1520s); makepeace "a peace-maker, one who reconciles persons at variance" (early 13c. as a surname).