late 14c., "one who or that which conveys," agent noun from carry (v.). Meaning "person or animal that carries and disseminates infection without suffering obvious disease" is from 1899; genetic sense is 1933. As a short form of aircraft carrier it dates from 1917. Carrier-pigeon, one of a breed trained to convey from one place to another written messages tied to its leg (also homing-pigeon), is from 1640s.
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