Entries linking to Polichinelle
"to thrust, push; jostle;" also, "to prod, drive (cattle, etc.) by poking and prodding," late 14c., from Old French ponchonner "to punch, prick, stamp," from ponchon "pointed tool, piercing weapon" (see punch (n.1)).
Meaning "to pierce, make a hole or holes in with a punch, emboss with a tool" is from early 15c.; meaning "to stab, puncture" is from mid-15c. Related: Punched; punching.
Specialized sense "to hit with the fist, give a blow, beat with blows of the fist" is recorded by 1520s. Compare Latin pugnare "to fight with the fists," from a root meaning "to pierce, sting." In English this sense-shift evolved also probably by influence of punish: Punch or punsch for punish is found in documents from 14c.-15c.:
punchyth me, Lorde, and spare my blyssyd wyff Anne. [Coventry Mystery Plays, late 15c.]
To punch (someone) out "beat (someone) up" is from 1971. To punch a ticket, etc., "make a hole in" to indicate use of it is from mid-15c. To punch the clock "record one's arrival at or departure from the workplace using an automated timing device" is from 1900.
There are time recorders for checking the minute of arrival and departure of each office employee—machines that operate with clock attachment and which in response to worker's punch print on tabular sheets of paper his promptnesses and delinquencies. [Richard Lord, "Running an Office by Machinery," in System, September 1909]
Perhaps you are some great big chief, who has a lot to say.
Who lords it o'er the common herd who chance to come your way;
Well, here is where your arrogance gets a dreadful shock,
When you march up, like a private, salute, and PUNCH THE CLOCK.
[from "Punch the Clock," by "The Skipper," The Commercial Telegraphers' Journal, May 1912]