1590s, "cut a notch or notches in," from notch (n.). Earlier verb (before misdivision) was Middle English ochen "to cut, slash" (c. 1400). Meaning "to place in a notch, to fit (an arrow) to the string by the notch" is from 1630s. Meaning "to mark or score" (1837) is sporting slang, originally in cricket, from the old method of keeping score; notch (n.) as "a nick in a stick, etc., as a means of keeping score" is from 1570s (also compare score, tally). Related: Notched; notching.