early 13c., "cunning, proud, ingenious," from O.Fr. cointe
"pretty, clever, knowing," from L. cognitus
"known," pp. of cognoscere
"get or come to know well" (see cognizance
). Sense of "old-fashioned but charming" is first attested 1795, and could describe the word itself, which had become rare after c.1700 (though it soon recovered popularity in this secondary sense). Chaucer used quaint
as spellings of cunt
in "Canterbury Tales" (c.1386), and Andrew Marvell may be punning on it similarly in "To His Coy Mistress" (1650).