1530s, "doll or little figure of a person moved by strings or wires" (later applied to puppets in glove form), a later form of Middle English popet "doll" (c. 1300; compare poppet), from Old French popette "little doll, puppet," diminutive of popee "doll, puppet" (13c., Modern French poupée), from Vulgar Latin *puppa, from Latin pupa "girl; doll" (see pupil (n.1)).
The metaphoric extension to "one actuated by the will of another, one whose actions are manipulated by another" is recorded from 1540s (as poppet). Puppet show "dramatic performance with puppets" is attested from 1650s, earlier puppet-play (1550s). Puppet government, one managed by the will of another power, is attested from 1884 (in reference to Egypt). Puppet-master "manager of a puppet-show" is by 1630s.