1640s, "a show of endearment, display of regard," from French caresse (16c.), back-formation from caresser or else from Italian carezza "endearment," from caro "dear," from Latin carus "dear, costly, beloved" (from PIE root *ka- "to like, desire"). Meaning "affectionate stroke" attested in English from 1650s. Related to charity, cherish.
"bestow caresses upon, stroke or pat affectionately;" also "treat with fondness or kindness," 1650s, from French caresser, from Italian carezzare "to cherish," from carezza "endearment" (see caress (n.)). Related: Caressed; caressing.