1630s, also corvet, "wooden ship of war, flush-decked, frigate-rigged, and having only one tier of guns," from French corvette "small, fast frigate" (15c.), perhaps from Middle Dutch korver "pursuit ship," or Middle Low German korf meaning both a kind of boat and a basket, or from Latin corbita (navis) "slow-sailing ship of burden, grain ship" from corbis "basket" (OED, but Gamillscheg is against this).
In late 19c. a class of cruiser-like ships in the British navy; in World War II a fast naval escort vessel used in convoy duty. The U.S. sports car was so named September 1952, after the type of warship, on a suggestion by Myron Scott, employee of Campbell-Ewald, Chevrolet's advertising agency. Italian corvetta, Spanish corbeta are French loan-words.