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).
"to journey by barge," 1590s, from barge (n.). The form barge into and the sense "crash heavily into," in reference to the rough handling of barges, attested by 1898. Related: Barged; barging.