Old English felan "to touch, perceive," from Proto-Germanic *foljan (cf. Old Saxon gifolian, Old Frisian fela, Dutch voelen, Old High German vuolen, German fühlen "to feel," Old Norse falma "to grope"), from PIE root *pal- "to touch, feel, shake, strike softly" (cf. Greek psallein "to pluck (the harp)," Latin palpare "to touch softly, stroke," palpitare "to move quickly"), perhaps ultimately imitative.
The sense in Old English was "to perceive through senses which are not referred to any special organ." Sense of "be conscious of a sensation or emotion" developed by late 13c.; that of "to have sympathy or compassion" is from c.1600. To feel like "want to" attested from 1829.
early 13c., "sensation, understanding," from feel (v.). Meaning "action of feeling" is from mid-15c. "Sensation produced by something" is from 1739. Noun sense of "sexual grope" is from 1932; from verbal phrase to feel (someone) up (1930).
v. felt (fělt), feel·ing, feels
To perceive through the sense of touch.
To perceive as a physical sensation, as of pain.
To be conscious of a particular physical, mental, or emotional state.
To feel or caress someone's body, esp the sex organs, usually in a sly or seemingly inadvertent way: I thought he wanted to help me into the car, but I think he just wanted to cop a feel (1930s+)
To touch, caress, or handle the buttocks, breasts, legs, crotch, etc; cop a feel (1930+)