The word yacht was first used in a 1580s nautical history by an English secretary to the ambassador of France, in which he wrote yeagh, which was borrowed from Dutch jacht. Soon thereafter, variations such as yothe, yaught, yaugh, yolke, yought, yaucht, yaacht, yatch, yott, and more cropped up, until spellings were standardized in the eighteenth century. Jacht is a shortened form of a previous Dutch word, jachtschip, which meant "speedy pirate ship" (over time, after yacht was adopted in Great Britain, the definition widened to mean "speedy ship" in general). More literally, this was "ship for chasing" (the connection being that pirate ships chased normal ships), because it's comprised of the elements schip, a cognate of English ship, and jagen, a verb meaning "to chase". Finally, jagen, through Old High German jagon and Proto-Germanic jagona, comes from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction yek, meaning "to hunt".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.