late 14c., perken, "to make oneself trim or smart," perhaps literally "to perch on a tree," from Old North French perquer "to perch" (Modern French percher; see perch (n.1), and compare perk (n.1)), on notion of a bird preening its plumage. Sense of "raise briskly, hold up smartly" is attested from 1520s; perk up "recover liveliness" is from 1650s. Related: Perked; perking.
Þe popeiayes perken and pruynen for proude On peren and pynappel.
["Susannah," Scottish alliterative poem, c. 1390]