early 14c., from O.Fr. eschequier "a check at chess," from eschec, from V.L. *scaccus, from Arabic shah, from Pers. shah "king," the principal piece in a chess game (see shah
). When the king is in check a player's choices are limited. Meaning widened from chess to general sense
of "adverse event, sudden stoppage" and by c.1700 to "a token used to check against loss or theft" (surviving in hat check) and "a check against forgery or alteration," which gave the modern financial use of "bank check, money draft" (first recorded 1798), probably influenced by exchequeur. Checking account is attested from 1923, Amer.Eng.
c.1400, in chess; see check
(n.). All the other senses seem to have developed from this one: "To arrest, stop," late 14c.; "to hold in restraint" (1620s); "to hold up or control" (an assertion, a person, etc.) by comparison with some authority or record, 1690s (as a player
in chess limits his opponent's ability to move when he places his opponent's king in check). Hence, to check off (1839); to check up (1889); to check in or out (in a hotel, of a library book, etc.).