late 15c., "living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power, or in the performance of a religious rite;" from Latin victima "sacrificial animal; person or animal killed as a sacrifice," a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps related to vicis "turn, occasion" (as in vicarious), if the notion is an "exchange" with the gods. Perhaps distantly connected to Old English wig "idol," Gothic weihs "holy," German weihen "consecrate" (compare Weihnachten "Christmas") on notion of "a consecrated animal."
Sense of "person who is hurt, tortured, or killed by another" is recorded from 1650s; meaning "person oppressed by some power or situation, person ruined or greatly injured or made to suffer in the pursuit of an object, or for the gratification of a passion or infatuation, or from disease or disaster" is from 1718. Weaker sense of "person taken advantage of, one who is cheated or duped" is recorded from 1781.
"swindling," 1889 (in con man), American English, from confidence man (1849), from the many scams in which the victim is induced to hand over money as a token of confidence. Confidence with a sense of "assurance based on insufficient grounds" dates from 1590s. Con artist is attested by 1910.
"fall guy, victim of a deception," by 1903, of uncertain origin, possibly an alteration of Italian pazzo "madman" (see patch (n.2)), or south Italian dialectal paccio "fool." Another theory traces it to Patsy Bolivar, character created by Billy B. Van in an 1890s vaudeville skit who was blamed whenever anything went wrong.
"Poor Rogers," Vincent said, still smiling, "he is always the 'Patsy Bolivar' of the school."
"Yes," Frank answered, "if there are any mistakes to be made or trouble to fall into, Rogers seems to be always the victim."
["Anthony Yorke," "A College Boy," 1899]