c. 1200, cointe, "cunning, ingenious; proud," from Old French cointe "knowledgeable, well-informed; clever; arrogant, proud; elegant, gracious," from Latin cognitus "known, approved," past participle of cognoscere "get or come to know well" (see cognizance). Modern spelling is from early 14c.
Later in English, "elaborate, skillfully made" (c. 1300); "strange and clever" (mid-14c.). Sense of "old-fashioned but charming" is first attested 1795, and could describe the word itself, which had become rare after c. 1700 (though it soon recovered popularity in this secondary sense). Related: Quaintly; quaintness.