c. 1300, quikenen, "come to life, receive life," also transitive, "give life to," also "return to life from the dead;" see quick (adj.) + -en (1). The earlier verb was simply quick (c. 1200, from late Old English gecwician, and compare Old Norse kvikna).
The sense of "hasten, accelerate, impart speed to" is from 1620s. The intransitive meaning "become faster or more active" is by 1805. Also, of a woman, "enter that state of pregnancy in which the child gives indications of life;" of a child, "begin to manifest signs of life in the womb" (usually about the 18th week of pregnancy); probably originally in reference to the child but reversed and also used of the mother. Related: Quickened; quickening.