c. 1200, "great in quantity or extent" (also "great in size, big, large," a sense now obsolete), a worn-down form (by loss of unaccented last syllable) of Middle English muchel "large, tall; many, in a large amount; great, formidable," from Old English micel "great in amount or extent," from Proto-Germanic *mekilaz, from PIE root *meg- "great."
As a noun, "a large quantity, a great deal," and as an adverb, "in a great degree, intensely, extensively," from c. 1200. Since 17c. the adverb has been much-used as a prefix to participial forms to make compound adjectives. For vowel evolution, see bury. Too much was used from late 14c. in the senses "astonishing, incredible," also "too offensive, unforgivable." Much-what "various things, this and that" (late 14c.) was "Very common in the 17th c." [OED] and turns up in an 1899 book of Virginia folk-speech as well as "Ulysses."
updated on March 13, 2019