1540s, "to fit with staves," from stave (n.). The meaning "break into staves" is from 1590s (with in from 1748, chiefly nautical, on notion of bashing in the staves of a cask). Past tense stove. Stave off (1620s), however, is literally "keep off with a staff," as of one beset by wolves or dogs. Related: Staved; staving.