late 14c., "tread or step lightly and nimbly, skip, dance, caper," from Old French triper "jump around, dance around, strike with the feet" (12c.), from a Germanic source (compare Middle Dutch trippen "to skip, trip, hop; to stamp, trample," Low German trippeln, Frisian tripje, Dutch trappen, Old English treppan "to tread, trample") related to trap (n.).
The senses of "to stumble" (intransitive), "strike with the foot and cause to stumble" (transitive) are from mid-15c. in English. Meaning "to release" (a catch, lever, etc.) is recorded from 1897; trip-wire is attested from 1868. Related: Tripped; tripping.