c.1200, "desolate regions," from Old French wast, from Latin vastum, neuter of vastus "waste" (see waste (v.)).
Replaced Old English westen, woesten "a desert, wilderness," from the Latin word. Meaning "useless expenditure" is recorded from c.1300; sense of "refuse matter" is attested from c.1400. Waste basket first recorded 1850. Waste-paper first recorded 1580s.