"giving milk, having milk," late 13c., milche, melch, from Old English -milce "milking" (Anglian -melce, West Saxon -mielce), from Proto-Germanic *melik- "milk," from PIE root *melg- "to rub off; to milk." A variant form of milk. Since 18c. applied only to domestic animals and chiefly to cows. Milch-cow is from early 15c.