For those of you that have not dined in a really fancy restaurant lately, a charger plate is a large dish that is on the table when you are seated and other plates and dishes are placed, or loaded, on top of it.
The word first appears as the Middle English chargeour in the c.1305 work Legends of the Holy Rood:
I was that cheef chargeour, I bar flesch for folkes feste.
(I was that chief charger, I bore meat for the people’s feast.)
The root in French is uncertain. It is either the Anglo-Norman chargeour meaning that which loads or the Old French chargeoir meaning a serving utensil.
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition)
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton