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c.1300, "wicked, base, cowardly," from Old North French caitive "captive, miserable" (Old French chaitif, 12c., Modern French chétif "puny, sickly, poor, weak"), from Latin captivum (see captive, which was a later, scholarly borrowing of the same word). In most Romance languages, it has acquired a pejorative sense.
c.1300, "wicked man, scoundrel," from Anglo-French caitif, noun use from Old North French caitive "captive, miserable" (see caitiff (adj.)). From mid-14c as "prisoner."