Middle English shitel, "missile; a weaver's instrument," also the name of a children's game, from Old English scytel "a dart, arrow," from Proto-Germanic *skutilaz (source also of Old Norse skutill "harpoon"), from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw."
The original sense in English is obsolete; the weaving instrument is so called from being "shot" across the threads. The sense of "train that runs back and forth" is recorded by 1895, from the image of the weaver's instrument's back-and-forth movement over the warp; extended to aircraft or air service by 1942, to spacecraft by 1969 in science, 1960 in science fiction. In some other languages, the weaving instrument takes its name from its resemblance to a boat (Latin navicula, French navette, German weberschiff).
1540s, transitive, "move (something) rapidly to and fro," from shuttle (n.); the sense of "transport via a shuttle service" is recorded from 1930. The intransitive sense of "go or move backward and forward like a shuttle" is from 1843. Related: Shuttled; shuttling.
updated on September 22, 2022