Entries linking to stagecraft
Sense of "period of development or time in life" first recorded early 14c., probably from Middle English sense of "degree or step on the 'ladder' of virtue, 'wheel' of fortune, etc.," in parable illustrations and morality plays. Meaning "a step in sequence, a stage of a journey" is late 14c. Meaning "level of water in a river, etc." is from 1814, American English.
Stage-name is from 1727. Stage-mother (n.) in the overbearing mother-of-an-actress sense is from 1915. Stage-door is from 1761, hence Stage-Door Johnny "young man who frequents stage doors seeking the company of actresses, chorus girls, etc." (1907). Stage whisper, such as used by an actor on stage to be heard by the audience, first attested 1865. Stage-manage (v.) is from 1871.
Old English cræft (West Saxon, Northumbrian), -creft (Kentish), "power, physical strength, might," from Proto-Germanic *krab-/*kraf- (source also of Old Frisian kreft, Old High German chraft, German Kraft "strength, skill;" Old Norse kraptr "strength, virtue"). The ultimate etymology is uncertain.
Sense expanded in Old English to include "skill, dexterity; art, science, talent" (via a notion of "mental power"), which led by late Old English to the meaning "trade, handicraft, employment requiring special skill or dexterity," also "something built or made." The word still was used for "might, power" in Middle English.
Use for "small boat" is first recorded 1670s, probably from a phrase similar to vessels of small craft and referring either to the trade they did or the seamanship they required, or perhaps it preserves the word in its original sense of "power."