"act of striking," c. 1300, probably from Old English *strac "stroke," from Proto-Germanic *straik- (source also of Middle Low German strek, German streich, Gothic striks "stroke"); see stroke (v.).
The meaning "mark of a pen" is from 1560s; that of "a striking of a clock" is from mid-15c. Sense of "feat, achievement" (as in stroke of luck, 1853) first found 1670s; the meaning "single pull of an oar or single movement of machinery" is from 1731. Meaning "apoplectic seizure" is from 1590s (originally the Stroke of God's Hand). Swimming sense is from 1800.
"pass the hand gently over," Old English stracian "to stroke," related to strican "pass over lightly," from Proto-Germanic *straik-, from PIE root *strig- "to stroke, rub, press" (see strigil). Figurative sense of "soothe, flatter" is recorded from 1510s. The noun meaning "a stroking movement of the hand" is recorded from 1630s. Related: Stroked; stroking.
Old English strica "line of motion, stroke of a pen" (related to strican "pass over lightly"), from Proto-Germanic *strikon- (source also of Middle Dutch streke, Dutch streek, Middle Low German streke "a stroke, line," Old High German, German strich, Gothic striks "a stroke, line"), from PIE root *strig- "to stroke, rub, press" (see strigil; also compare strike (v.), stroke (v.)). Sense of "long, thin mark" is first found 1560s. Meaning "a temporary run (of luck)" is from 1843.
Old English strican (past tense strac, past participle stricen) "pass lightly over, stroke, smooth, rub," also "go, move, proceed," from Proto-Germanic *strikan- (source also of Old Norse strykva "to stroke," Old Frisian strika, Middle Dutch streken, Dutch strijken "to smooth, stroke, rub," Old High German strihhan, German streichen), from PIE root *strig- "to stroke, rub, press" (see strigil). Related to streak and stroke, and perhaps influenced in sense development by cognate Old Norse striuka.
Sense of "to deal a blow" developed by early 14c.; meaning "to collide" is from mid-14c.; that of "to hit with a missile" is from late 14c. Meaning "to cancel or expunge" (as with the stroke of a pen) is attested from late 14c. A Middle English sense is preserved in strike for "go toward." Sense of "come upon, find" is from 1835 (especially in mining, well-digging, etc., hence strike it rich, 1854). Baseball sense is from 1853. To strike a balance is from the sense "balance accounts" (1530s).
Meaning "refuse to work to force an employer to meet demands" is from 1768, perhaps from notion of striking or "downing" one's tools, or from sailors' practice of striking (lowering) a ship's sails as a symbol of refusal to go to sea (1768), which preserves the verb's original sense of "make level, smooth."