This is the sense of mark that means a particular brand of something. The OED notes that this is often followed by a numeral:
A particular ‘brand’, make, quality, or size of an article. Also, freq. followed by a numeral, a designation of the stage of development in design and construction of a manufactured product or piece of equipment, as a weapon, an aeroplane, etc.
Two 19th century citations of this use are:
- 1888 Treat. Mil. Small Arms & Ammunition 52 ― Enfield Revolver Pistol, Mark II.
- 1899 Kynoch Jrnl. Oct.–Nov. 12/1 ― Despite the unfortunate failures at Edinburgh and Bisley of the bullet known as Mark ɪᴠ.
Two prior citations that show the evolution of mark to mean make/quality/size are:
- 1669 Sturmy Mariner’s Mag. v. xii. 68 ― In regard of the several differences of the length and marks, or Diameter of her Base and Muzzle-ring, no certain proportion can be generally assigned.
- 1758 Monthly Rev. 204 ― The prices of Grinding··and Diamond-cutting the several Marks or Sizes [of plate-glass].
The OED notes that when used with the postfix numeric, mark is sometimes abbreviated as Mk.
In the specific case of marque for motor vehicles, this was borrowed back from the French spelling during the 20th century. Here are the OED’s citations for those, with italics in the original. The most important is the 1958 quote:
- 1956 Road & Track Oct. 5 (Advt.), ― The marque of Mercedes-Benz.
- 1956 Road & Track 14 ― The firm and marque has not actively participated in competition.
- 1958 N. & Q. Feb. 86/1 ― ‘Marque’ is surely a recent borrowing from the French language where it is in general use to denote a particular type of variety of a product, e.g. Frigidaire, Hoover, etc··. The channel whereby the word has passed from French to English is doubtless international motor-racing.
Additionally, the word mark was sometimes spelled marque during the 1600s, with no change in meaning. However, its use in “letters of marque and reprisal” may — or may not — represent something else. The OED says of this one:
Etymology: a. Fr. marque (OFr. also merke), ad. Pr. marca, vbl. sb. f. marcar (med.L. marcāre) to seize as a pledge. It is uncertain whether this is connected with mark sb.1
The word mark itself has a long history, having its English origins in OE. mearc and Anglian merc, where it meant boundary, landmark, sign. The OED points out how French adopted it from Germanic languages, and so the British marque is just a reborrowing back into English of a word lent to French.
The Teut. word and its derivative vb. were early adopted into Romanic; the sb. appears as OFr. merc, marc masc., Fr. marque fem., mark, sign, etc., marche (ONFr. marque) boundary (see march sb.3), Pr., Sp., Pg., Ital. marca mark, sign, boundary. Some of the senses developed in Fr. marque have coloured the application of the Eng. word.
The last sentence quoted above suggests that the English use of marque has been influenced by the French. The OED suspects that the original meaning was boundary, connecting the hypothetical Old Teutonic ∗markâ with the Latin margo meaning margin.
The word appears in various guises in all kinds of places, from the Welsh marches to the old British kingdom of Mercia, all the way to various Iberian-derived comarcas.