The first meaning of the noun, jack, listed by Oxford Dictionaries, is a device used for lifting heavy weights, loads, merchandise, etc. Today the most common form is a car jack, floor jack or garage jack, used by car owners and professional car mechanics to lift vehicles in order to change tires or perform repairs. The first attestation in the Oxford English Dictionary of jack in the sense 'a machine, usually portable, for lifting heavy weights by force acting from below' is from 1679.
The name Jack is unusual in the English language for its frequent use as a noun or verb for many common objects and actions, and in many compound words and phrases.
Examples include a car jack, the game jacks or the jack in bowls.
The word is also used in other words and phrases such as: apple jack, hijack, jack of clubs (playing card), jack straw (scarecrow), jack tar (sailor), jack-in-the-box, jack-of-all-trades, jack o'lantern, jackdaw, jackhammer, jackknife, jackpot, lumberjack, union jack (the British flag), etc.
The history of the word is linked to the name being used as a by-name for a man
From Middle English jakke (“a term of familiarity or contempt; guy; a mechanical turnspit; a brass coin”), from the name Jack.
The proper name was used in Middle English for "any common fellow," and thereafter extended to various appliances which do the work of common servants (1570s).
masc. proper name, attested by 1218, probably via Anglo-French Jake, Jaikes, from Old French Jacques (which was a diminutive of Latin Jacobus), but in English the name always has been regarded as a familiar form of John, and some have argued that it is a native formation.
In Middle English spelled Jakke, Jacke, etc., and pronounced as two syllables ("Jackie")
1860, jack up "hoist, raise, lift with a jack," American English, from jack (n.) in the appliance sense. Figurative sense "increase (prices, etc.)" is 1904, American English. Related: Jacked; jacking. Jack off (v.) "masturbate" is attested from 1916, probably from jack (n.) in the old slang sense of "(erect) penis."
Nouns and verbs derived from J/jack
jackass, jackball, jackboot, jackdaw, jackfish, applejack, blackjack, flapjack, hijack, jackanapes, jackaroo, jacket, jack-hammer, jack in, jack-in-the-box, jack-knife, jack-o'-lantern, jackman, jackpot, jack off, jack-up, jack-shit, jackstraw, jock, jockey, john, lumberjack, natterjack, skipjack, steeplejack, union jack