1570s, from China + -ese. As a noun from c.1600. Chinee (n.) is a vulgar back-formation from this word on the mistaken notion that the word is a plural. As an adjective, Chinish also was used 16c. Chinese fire-drill "chaotic situation of many people rushing around futilely" is attested by 1962, U.S. military slang. The game Chinese checkers is attested from 1938.