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.
Old English grippan "to grip, seize, obtain" (class I strong verb; past tense grap, past participle gripen), from West Germanic *gripjan (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.
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