late 14c., "to strike out with the foot," of uncertain origin, perhaps from Old Norse kikna "bend backwards, sink at the knees." "The doubts OED has about the Scandinavian origin of kick are probably unfounded" [Liberman]. Older sources guessed it to be from Celtic. Earliest in the biblical phrase that is now usually rendered as kick against the pricks. Related: Kicked; kicking.
Transitive sense "give a blow with the foot" is from 1580s. Meaning "to strike in recoiling" (as a gun, etc.) is from 1832. Figurative sense of "complain, protest, manifest strong objection, rebel against" (late 14c.) probably is at least in part from the Bible verse. Slang sense of "die" is attested from 1725 (kick the wind was slang for "be hanged," 1590s; see also bucket). Meaning "to end one's drug habit" is from 1936.
Kick in "to break (something) down" is from 1876, sense of "contribute" is from 1908, American English; kick out "expel" is from 1690s. To kick around (intransitive) "wander about" is from 1839; transitive sense of "treat contemptuously" is from 1871 on the notion of "kick in all directions." To be kicked upstairs "removed from action by ostensible promotion" is from 1750. To kick oneself in self-reproach is from 1891. The children's game of kick the can is attested from 1891.
1520s, "a blow or thrust with the foot," from kick (v.). Meaning "recoil (of a gun) when fired" is from 1826. Meaning "surge or fit of pleasure" (often as kicks) is from 1941; originally "stimulation from liquor or drugs" (1844). Hence kickster "one who lives for kicks" (1963). The kick "the fashion" is from c. 1700. Kicks in slang also has meant "trousers" (1700), "shoes" (1904).
updated on June 30, 2019