1856, "style in fine art, artistic skill, faculty of producing excellence rapidly and easily," from French chic "stylishness" (19c.), originally "subtlety" (16c.), which is of unknown origin. Perhaps [Klein] it is related to German Schick, Geschick "tact, skill, aptness," from Middle Low German schikken "arrange appropriately," or Middle High German schicken "to arrange, set in order." Or perhaps it is from French chicane, from chicanerie "trickery" (see chicanery).
Meaning "Parisian elegance and stylishness combined with originality" is by 1882 (Pall Mall Gazette, Sept. 6, 1888, uses the word in a concert review and pauses to define it as "an untranslatable word, denoting an indispensable quality"). As an adjective, in reference to persons, "stylish," 1879 in English. "Not so used in F[rench]" [OED].
updated on June 02, 2022