"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.
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]
violent, squeaky-voiced puppet-show star, 1709, shortening of Punchinello (1666), from Italian (Neapolitan) Pollecinella, Pollecenella, diminutive of pollecena "turkey pullet," probably in allusion to his big nose. The phrase pleased as punch apparently refers to his unfailing triumph over enemies. The comic weekly of this name was published in London from 1841.
"pointed tool for making holes, pricking, or embossing," late 14c., short for puncheon, from Old French ponchon, poinchon "pointed tool, piercing weapon," from Vulgar Latin *punctionem (nominative *punctio) "pointed tool," from past-participle stem of Latin pungere "to prick, pierce, sting" (from suffixed form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick").
From mid-15c. as "a stab, thrust;" late 15c. as "a dagger." Extended from the simple instrument to machines doing similar work; the meaning "machine for pressing or stamping a die" is from 1620s.
type of mixed drink, 1630s; since 17c. traditionally said to derive from Hindi panch "five," in reference to the number of original ingredients (spirits, water, lemon juice, sugar, spice), from Sanskrit panchan-s, from pancha "five" (from PIE root *penkwe- "five"). But there are difficulties (see OED), and connection to puncheon (n.1) is not impossible. Dutch punch, German Punch, French punch, etc. are said to be from English.
The Hind. panch does not seem to occur alone in the sense of 'punch,' but it is much used in composition to denote various mixtures of five things, as, panchamrit, a mixture of milk, curds, sugar, glue, and honey, panch-bhadra, a sauce of five ingredients, panch-pallar, a medical preparation from the sprouts of five trees, etc. [Century Dictionary]
"a quick blow, dig, or thrust with the fist," by 1570s, probably from punch (v.). In early use it also could refer to blows with the foot or jabs with a staff or club. Originally especially of blows that sink in to some degree ("... whom he unmercifully bruises and batters from head to foot: here a slap in the chaps, there a black eye, now a punch in the stomach, and then a kick on the breech," Monthly Review, 1763).
The figurative sense of "forceful, vigorous quality" is recorded from 1911. Punch line (also punch-line) is from 1915, originally in popular-song writing. To beat (someone) to the punch in the figurative sense is from 1915, a metaphor from boxing (attested by 1913); punch-drunk "dazed from continued punching, having taken so many punches one can no longer feel it" is from 1915 (alternative form slug-nutty is from 1933).