mid-14c., from Old English gingifer, gingiber, from Late Latin gingiber, from Latin zingiberi, from Greek zingiberis, from Prakrit (Middle Indic) singabera, from Sanskrit srngaveram, from srngam "horn" + vera- "body," so called from the shape of its root. But this may be Sanskrit folk etymology, and the word may be from an ancient Dravidian word that also produced the Malayalam name for the spice, inchi-ver, from inchi "root."
The word apparently was readopted in Middle English from Old French gingibre (12c., Modern French gingembre). In reference to coloring, by 1785 of fighting cocks, 1885 of persons (gingery with reference to hair is from 1852). Meaning "spirit, spunk, temper" is from 1843, American English (see gin (v.1)). Ginger-ale is recorded by 1822, the term adopted by manufacturers to distinguish their product from ginger beer (1809), which was sometimes fermented. Ginger-snap as a type of hard cookie flavored with ginger is from 1855, American English.