"small, two-wheeled carriage drawn by a man," 1885, shortened form of jinrikisha (1873), from Japanese jin "a man" + riki "power" + sha "carriage." The elements are said to be ultimately from Chinese. Watkins writes that the Old Chinese word for "wheeled vehicle" preserved here is probably ultimately from PIE *kw(e)-kwl-o- (from PIE root *kwel- (1) "revolve, move round; sojourn, dwell"), perhaps borrowed from Tocharian, an extinct Indo-European language of Central Asia.
The full word first appears in English publications in Japan and was said to have been a recent innovation there. In Kipling, whose ghost story helped popularize it, it is spelled 'rickshaw.