Old English grippan "to grip, seize, obtain" (class I strong verb; past tense grap, past participle gripen), from West Germanic *greipanan (source also of Old High German gripfen "to rob," Old English gripan "to seize;" see gripe (v.)). Related: Gripped; gripping. French gripper "to seize," griffe "claw" are Germanic loan-words.
c. 1200, "act of grasping or seizing; power or ability to grip," fusion of Old English gripe "grasp, clutch" and gripa "handful, sheaf" (see grip (v.)). Figurative use from mid-15c. Meaning "a handshake" (especially one of a secret society) is from 1785. Meaning "that by which anything is grasped" is from 1867. Meaning "stage hand" is from 1888, from their work shifting scenery.