c. 1300, "absence, want; shortage, deficiency," not found in Old English, of uncertain origin. Perhaps it is from an unrecorded Old English *lac, or else borrowed from Middle Dutch lak "deficiency, fault;" in either case probably from Proto-Germanic *lek- (source also of Old Frisian lek "disadvantage, damage," Old Norse lakr "lacking" (in quality), "deficient" (in weight)), from PIE *leg- (2) "to dribble, trickle" (see leak (v.)). Middle English also had lackless "without blame or fault."
"be wanting or deficient" (intransitive), late 12c., perhaps from Middle Dutch laken "to be wanting," from lak (n.) "deficiency, fault," or an unrecorded native cognate word (see lack (n.)). Transitive sense "be in want of" is from early 13c. Related: Lacked; lacking.