late 14c., rafle, "game played with dice, a throw of the dice" (senses now obsolete), from Old French rafle "dice game," also "plundering," a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps from a Germanic source (compare Middle Dutch raffel "dice game," Old Frisian hreppa "to move," Old Norse hreppa "to reach, get," Swedish rafs "rubbish," Old High German raspon "to scrape together, snatch up in haste," German raffen "to snatch away, sweep off"), from Proto-Germanic *khrap- "to pluck out, snatch off." The notion would be "to sweep up (the stakes), to snatch (the winnings)." Diez connects the French word with the Germanic root, but OED is against this.
The meaning "method of sale by chance or lottery, form of lottery in which an article is assigned by the drawing of lots to one person among several who have paid for the chance" is recorded by 1766.
"dispose of by raffle; try the chance of a raffle," 1851, from raffle (n.). Earlier "to cast dice" (1670s). Related: Raffled; raffling.
updated on March 31, 2021