"action or right of seizure of persons or of property of subjects of a foreign ruler or state by way of reprisal for injuries committed by such persons," early 15c., in letters of marque "official permission to capture enemy merchant ships," from Anglo-French mark (mid-14c.), via Old French from Old Provençal marca "reprisal," from marcar "seize as a pledge, mark," probably from a Germanic source (compare Old High German marchon "delimit, mark;" see mark (n.1)), but the sense evolution is difficult.
It forms all or part of: Cymric; demarcation; Denmark; emarginate; landmark; march (v.) "walk with regular tread;" march (n.2) "boundary;" marchioness; margin; margrave; mark (n.1) "trace, impression;" mark (n.2) "unit of money or weight;" marque; marquee; marquetry; marquis; remark; remarkable.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Latin margo "margin;" Avestan mareza- "border;" Old Irish mruig, Irish bruig "borderland," Welsh bro "district;" Old English mearc "boundary, sign, limit, mark," Gothic marka "boundary, frontier."
"trace, impression," Old English mearc (West Saxon), merc (Mercian) "boundary, limit; sign, landmark," from Proto-Germanic *markō (source also of Old Norse merki "boundary, sign," mörk "forest," which often marked a frontier; Old Frisian merke, Gothic marka "boundary, frontier," Dutch merk "mark, brand," German Mark "boundary, boundary land"), from PIE root *merg- "boundary, border." Influenced by, and partly from, Scandinavian cognates. The Germanic word was borrowed widely and early in Romanic (compare marque; march (n.2), marquis).
The primary sense "boundary" had evolved by Old English through "pillar, post, etc. as a sign of a boundary," through "a sign in general," then to "impression or trace forming a sign." Meaning "any visible trace or impression" is recorded by c. 1200. Meaning "a cross or other character made by an illiterate person as a signature" is from late Old English. Sense of "line drawn to indicate the starting point of a race" (as in on your marks..., which is by 1890) is attested by 1887.
The Middle English sense of "target" (c. 1200) is the notion in marksman and slang sense "victim of a swindle" (1883). The notion of "sign, token" is behind the meaning "a characteristic property, a distinctive feature" (1520s), also that of "numerical award given by a teacher" (by 1829). To make (one's) mark "attain distinction" is by 1847.
In medieval England and in Germany, "a tract of land held in common by a community," hence Mark of Brandenburg, etc.
"inlay of some thin material in the surface of a piece of furniture or other object," 1560s, from French marqueterie "inlaid work," from marqueter "to checker" (14c.), frequentative of marquer, from marque "mark," which is probably from a Germanic source (see mark (n.1)).
1680s, "large tent of unusual elaborateness," from French marquise (mistaken in English as a plural) "linen canopy placed over an officer's tent to distinguish it from others,' " fem. of marquis (see marquis), and perhaps indicating "a place suitable for a marquis."
By 1812 the English word was used of large wooden structures erected for a temporary purpose (a concert, dinner party, etc.). The extended sense of "canopy over the entrance to a hotel or theater, etc." is recorded by 1912 in American English.