1630s, "to plunge or sink in" (to something), a sense now obsolete, from Latin mergere "to dip, dip in, immerse, plunge," probably rhotacized from *mezgo, from PIE *mezgo- "to dip, to sink, to wash, to plunge" (source also of Sanskrit majjanti "to sink, dive under," Lithuanian mazgoju, mazgoti, Latvian mazgat "to wash").
Intransitive meaning "sink or disappear into something else, be swallowed up, lose identity" is from 1726, in the specific legal sense of "absorb an estate, contract, etc. into another." Transitive sense of "cause to be absorbed or to disappear in something else" is from 1728. Related: Merged; merging. As a noun, from 1805.