"baby's bed," usually mounted on rockers or suspended for rocking or swinging, c. 1200, cradel, from Old English cradol "little bed, cot," from Proto-Germanic *kradulaz "basket" (source also of Old High German kratto, krezzo "basket," German Krätze "basket carried on the back").
Figurative sense of "the place where any person or thing is nurtured in the early stages of existence" is from 1580s. The word also was used from late 14c. in reference to various mechanical devices for holding or hoisting. As "frame of wood with long, curved teeth and a scythe blade for cutting grain and laying it in a straight swath," 1570s. As "rest on a telephone for the receiver when not in use" is from 1903.
The children's game of cat's-cradle is so called by 1768. Cradle-snatching "amorous pursuit of younger person" is from 1906.
"It's like cradle-snatching to want to marry a girl of sixteen, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself, for you can't be much more than twenty one yourself." ["Edith Van Dyne" (L. Frank Baum), "Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad," 1906]
c. 1400, "place or rock in or as in a cradle," from cradle (n.). From 1750 as "cut (grain) with a cradle." By 1944 as "hang up a telephone receiver." Related: Cradled; cradling.