From Middle English onager, onagir, from Anglo-Norman onager, Middle French onager, onagre, Old French onager, onagre (modern French onagre), from Late Latin onager ("large siege engine"), Latin onager ("wild ass"), from Hellenistic Ancient Greek ὄναγρος ("wild ass"), Byzantine Ancient Greek ὄναγρος ("large siege engine"), from ὄνος + ἄγριος (from ᾰ̓γρός (possibly ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₂eǵ- ("to drive")) + -ῐος).
The “military engine” sense alludes to the strong recoil of the engine, likened to an onager’s kick; see the 2007 quotation.
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