late 14c., nippen, "to pinch sharply; to bite suddenly," probably from or related to Middle Low German nipen "to nip, to pinch," German nippen, Middle Dutch nipen "to pinch," Dutch nijpen, Old Norse hnippa "to prod," but the exact evolution of the stem is obscure. Related: Nipped; nipping.
Meaning "break off the tip by pinching" is from c. 1400. Sense of "blast as by frost, check the growth or vigor of" is from 1580s. To nip (something) in the bud in the figurative sense of "kill or destroy in the first stage of growth" is recorded from c. 1600. Slang nip in, nip out, etc., in which the sense of the verb is "move rapidly or nimbly" is attested from 1825.
"small measure of strong spirits," 1796, slang shortening of nipperkin (1670s) "quantity of beer or liquor of a half pint or less," possibly of Dutch or Low German origin (compare German Nipp "sip, taste") and related to nip (v.). Reinforced by nip (n.2) in its secondary sense of "fragment or bit pinched off" (c. 1600).
"a pinch; a sharp bite," 1540s, from nip (v.). Sense of "a small bit of anything, fragment or bit pinched off" is from c. 1600. Meaning "a chill in the weather" is from 1610s, probably so called for its effect on vegetation. Nip and tuck "a close thing," especially a close approach to equality in the results of a horse race or any competition, is recorded by 1847, American English, perhaps an image from sailing or tailoring.