"trace, impression," Old English mearc (West Saxon), merc (Mercian) "boundary, limit; sign, landmark," from Proto-Germanic *markō (source also of Old Norse merki "boundary, sign," mörk "forest," which often marked a frontier; Old Frisian merke, Gothic marka "boundary, frontier," Dutch merk "mark, brand," German Mark "boundary, boundary land"), from PIE root *merg- "boundary, border." Influenced by, and partly from, Scandinavian cognates. The Germanic word was borrowed widely and early in Romanic (compare marque; march (n.2), marquis).
The primary sense "boundary" had evolved by Old English through "pillar, post, etc. as a sign of a boundary," through "a sign in general," then to "impression or trace forming a sign." Meaning "any visible trace or impression" is recorded by c. 1200. Meaning "a cross or other character made by an illiterate person as a signature" is from late Old English. Sense of "line drawn to indicate the starting point of a race" (as in on your marks..., which is by 1890) is attested by 1887.
The Middle English sense of "target" (c. 1200) is the notion in marksman and slang sense "victim of a swindle" (1883). The notion of "sign, token" is behind the meaning "a characteristic property, a distinctive feature" (1520s), also that of "numerical award given by a teacher" (by 1829). To make (one's) mark "attain distinction" is by 1847.
In medieval England and in Germany, "a tract of land held in common by a community," hence Mark of Brandenburg, etc.
"unit of money or weight," late Old English marc, a unit of weight (chiefly for gold or silver) equal to about eight ounces, probably from Old Norse mörk "unit of weight," cognate with German Mark and probably ultimately a derivative of mark (n.1), perhaps in a sense of "imprinted weight or coin." It was a unit of account in England into 18c., perhaps originally introduced by the Danes, but never the name of a particular coin.
The word is found in all the Germanic and Romanic languages (compare Old Frisian merk, Dutch mark, Medieval Latin marca, French marc (11c.), Spanish and Italian marco); in English it was used from 18c. in reference to various continental coinages, especially the silver money of Germany first issued 1875.
masc. proper name, variant of Marcus (q.v.). Among the top 10 names given to boy babies born in the U.S. between 1955 and 1970.
Mark Twain is the pseudonym of American writer and humorist Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), who had been a riverboat pilot; he took his pen name from the cry mark twain, the call indicating a depth of two fathoms, from mark (n.1) in a specialized sense of "measured notification (a piece of knotted cloth, etc.) on a lead-line indicating fathoms of depth" (1769) + twain.
"to put a mark on," Old English mearcian (West Saxon), merciga (Anglian) "to trace out boundaries;" in late Old English "make a mark or marks on," from Proto-Germanic *markojan (source also of Old Norse merkja, Old Saxon markon "appoint, observe, remark," Old Frisian merkia, Old High German marchon "to limit, plan out," German merken "to mark, note," Middle Dutch and Dutch merken "to set a mark on"), from the root of mark (n.1).
Influenced by the Scandinavian cognates. Meaning "to have a mark" is from c. 1400; that of "to notice, observe" is late 14c. Figurative sense of "designate as if by placing a mark on," hence "to destine," is from late Old English. Meaning "be a noteworthy feature of" is by 1660s. To mark time (1833) is from military drill, originally "move the feet as if marching but remain in place."
The verbs in Romanic are from the nouns, which are early borrowings from Germanic: Old French merchier "to mark, note, stamp, brand," French marquer "to mark," Spanish marcar, Italian marcare.
updated on January 04, 2019