early 14c., "seagoing vessel of moderate size with sails," from Old French barge "boat, ship," Old Provençal barca, from Medieval Latin barga, perhaps from Celtic, or perhaps from Latin *barica, from Greek baris "Egyptian boat," from Coptic bari "small boat." From late 14c. as "river craft; barge used on state occasions; raft for ferrying;" meaning "flat-bottomed freight boat" dates from late 15c. In former times also "a magnificently adorned, elegant boat of state," for royalty, magistrates, etc. (1580s).