Turkish honorary title formerly given to officers of high rank, 1640s, from Turkish pasha, also basha, from bash "head, chief" (no clear distinction between -b- and -p- in Turkish), from Old Persian pati- "master" (from PIE root *poti- "powerful; lord") + root of shah. Earlier in English as bashaw (1530s).
late 14c., in translations of the Old Testament, "the governor of a province of ancient Persia," from Latin satrapes, from Greek satrapēs, exatrapēs, from Old Persian xšathrapavan-, literally "guardian of the realm," from xšathra- "realm, province" (related to xšayathiya "king," cognate with Sanskrit kshatra; see shah) + pavan- "guardian" (from PIE root *pa- "to feed; to guard, protect").
Extended by late 14c. to any autocratic superior, and figuratively to a despotic official under a tyrant, a sense, according to OED, also found in Medieval Latin and all the Romanic languages. Related: Satrapy (n.); satrapess (n.); satrapal; satrapial; satrapian.
c. 1300, in chess, "a call noting one's move has placed his opponent's king (or another major piece) in immediate peril," from Old French eschequier "a check at chess" (also "chess board, chess set"), from eschec "the game of chess; chessboard; check; checkmate," from Vulgar Latin *scaccus, from Arabic shah, from Persian shah "king," the principal piece in a chess game (see shah; also compare checkmate (n.)). Also c. 1300 in a generalized sense, "harmful incident or event, hostile environment."
As "an exposure of the king to a direct attack from an opposing piece" early 15c. When his king is in check, a player's choices are severely limited. From that notion come the many extended senses: From the notion of "a sudden stoppage, hindrance, restraint" (1510s) comes that of "act or means of checking or restraining," also "means of detecting or exposing or preventing error; a check against forgery or alteration.
"Hence: "a counter-register as a token of ownership used to check against, and prevent, loss or theft" (as in hat check, etc.), 1812. Hence also the financial use for "written order for money drawn on a bank, money draft" (1798, often spelled cheque), which was probably influenced by exchequer. Hence also "mark put against names or items on a list indicating they have been verified or otherwise examined" (by 1856).
From its use in chess the word has been widely transferred in French and English. In the sense-extension, the sb. and vb. have acted and reacted on each other, so that it is difficult to trace and exhibit the order in which special senses arose [OED]
Meaning "restaurant bill" is from 1869. Checking account is attested from 1897, American English. Blank check in the figurative sense is attested by 1849 (compare carte blanche). Checks and balances is from 1782, perhaps originally suggesting machinery.
mid-14c., in chess, said of a king when it is in check and cannot escape it, from Old French eschec mat (Modern French échec et mat), which (with Spanish jaque y mate, Italian scacco-matto) is from Arabic shah mat "the king died" (see check (n.1)), which according to Barnhart is a misinterpretation of Persian mat "be astonished" as mata "to die," mat "he is dead." Hence Persian shah mat, if it is the ultimate source of the word, would be literally "the king is left helpless, the king is stumped."
mausoleum at Agra, India, built by Shah Jahan for his favorite wife, from Persian, perhaps "the best of buildings," with second element, mahal, from Urdu mahall "private apartments; summer house or palace," from Arabic halla "to lodge." But some authorities hold that the name of the mausoleum is a corruption of the name of the woman interred in it, Mumtaz (in Persian, literally "chosen one") Mahal, who died in 1631. Persian taj is literally "crown, diadem, ornamental headdress," but here denoting an object of distinguished excellence. Figurative use of Taj Mahal in English as a name denoting anything surpassing or excellent is attested from 1895.
In English it began to be used 1760s, by orientalists and linguists (Alexander Dow, William Jones), in historical contexts, and usually with a footnote identifying it with modern Persia; as recently as 1903 "Century Dictionary" defined it as "the ancient name of the region lying between Kurdistan and India." In 1935 the government of Reza Shah Pahlavi requested governments with which it had diplomatic relations to call his country Iran, after the indigenous name, rather than the Greek-derived Persia.