"thistle-like plant," also "the head of the flower stem, used as food," 1530s, from articiocco, Northern Italian variant of Italian arcicioffo, from Old Spanish alcarchofa, from Arabic al-hursufa "artichoke." The Northern Italian variation probably is from influence of ciocco "stump."
Folk etymology has twisted the word in English; the ending is probably influenced by choke, and early forms of the word in English include archecokk, hortichock, artychough, hartichoake, reflecting various folk-etymologies from French and Latin words. The plant is native to the Mediterranean and was known to the Romans and Greeks (see cardoon); the modern, improved variant seems to have been bred in North Africa (hence the new, Arabic name) and reached Italy by mid-15c. It was introduced into England in the reign of Henry VIII. French artichaut (16c.), German Artischocke (16c.) are from Italian, and from the same source come Russian artishoku, Polish karczock.