"formal written instrument bestowing privileges and rights, serving as legal evidence of them," c. 1200, from Old French chartre (12c.) "charter, letter, document, covenant," from Latin chartula/cartula, literally "little paper," diminutive of charta/carta "paper, document" (see chart (n.)). Meaning "aircraft hired for a particular purpose" is from 1922.
early 15c., "provide with a charter," from charter (n.). Meaning "to hire by special contract" is attested from 1806. Related: Chartered; chartering.