c.1300, transitive, "to strangle;" late 14c., "to make to suffocate," of persons as well as swallowed objects, a shortening of acheken (c.1200), from Old English aceocian "to choke, suffocate" (with intensive a-), probably from root of ceoke "jaw, cheek" (see cheek (n.)).
Intransitive sense from c.1400. Meaning "gasp for breath" is from early 15c. Figurative use from c.1400, in early use often with reference to weeds stifling the growth of useful plants (a Biblical image). Meaning "to fail in the clutch" is attested by 1976, American English. Related: Choked; choking. Choke-cherry (1785) supposedly so called for its astringent qualities. Johnson also has choke-pear "Any aspersion or sarcasm, by which another person is put to silence." Choked up "overcome with emotion and unable to speak" is attested by 1896. The baseball batting sense is by 1907.