Just one of those surprising etymologies that I can’t resist sharing:
[Probably alteration of Middle English (a) ningkiling, (a) hint, suggestion, possibly alteration of nikking, from nikken, to mark a text for correction, from nik, notch, tally, perhaps from variant of Old French niche, niche; see NICHE.]
And if you’re curious about niche:
[French, from Old French, from nichier, to nest (from Vulgar Latin *nīdicāre, from Latin nīdus, nest; see sed– in the Appendix of Indo-European roots) or from Old Italian nicchio, seashell (perhaps from Latin mītulus, mussel).]
And while I’m at it, I might as well quote the amusing Usage Note:
Niche was borrowed from French in the 1600s and Anglicized shortly thereafter. Many French borrowings have troublesome pronunciations, because most English speakers can’t speak French very well, if at all. Niche presents an interesting variation of this pattern. It was quickly converted into a comfortable English-sounding word, pronounced (nĭch) and rhyming with itch. But in the 1900s, people familiar with French thought that a word that looked French should sound French, and so the Francophone pronunciation (nēsh), rhyming with quiche, was revived. Some Americans consider this pronunciation to be an affectation; however, it is standard in Britain and is included in most American dictionaries. The hybrid pronunciation (nēch), which takes something from each version to rhyme with leech, is less favored, perhaps because it makes one look as though one doesn’t know what language one is speaking. In our 2005 survey, 69 percent of the Usage Panel found it unacceptable.
As I have said elsewhere, I use the comfortable English-sounding rhymes-with-itch pronunciation, but to each their own.