late 14c., intransitive, of uncertain origin, possibly a shortened variant of stricklen "to trickle," a frequentative form of striken "to flow, move" (see strike (v.)). Transitive sense from c. 1600. Related: Trickled; trickling. Trickle-down as an adjectival phrase in an economic sense first recorded 1944; the image had been in use at least since Teddy Roosevelt.
1570s, from trickle (v.).