Scheme is a noun, which has a central meaning and various deviations from that meaning. It can be implied as a large-scale systematic plan or arrangement for attaining some particular object or putting a particular idea into effect. Then it can be interpreted as a particular order system or arrangement. These two definitions originated from the mid 16th century, when scheme was used to describe a diagram showing the relative positions, either real or apparent, of the heavenly bodies. This was taken from the Medieval Latin word schema; arrangement, figure, shape, or form. From this the sense of a diagram and outline was taken and applied in the 16th century. Between the 16th and 17th century, scheme was also used as a synonym for figure. Schema, in turn, originates from the Greek word skhema, meaning a figure, appearance, or nature of a thing. The earlier uses in English show direct influence from the Greek definition. Skhema is related to the Greek words skhein, to get, and ekhein, to have. The base of these words is the proto-indo-european segh, meaning to hold, to hold in one’s power, to have.
There is also a verb version of scheme that appeared during the mid 18th century. It was to make plans, especially in a devious way or with intent to do something illegal or wrong. This idea of scheme being a secret or underhanded plan gave it an unfavorable notion similar to plot.
The word scheme was also used to describe many different things. It was used in rhetoric as a form of deviating from the ordinary use and arrangement of words for the sake of effectiveness or beauty of expression. T. Wilson first recorded the usage of scheme in this way in 1553 in his book the Arte of Rhetorique. Scheme was also used in a wider sense as being a diagram for mathematics, natural phenomena, machinery, mapping, and architectural building designs. This broad definition was applied around 1649 and was commonly used until approximately 1826. During the same time scheme also implied an analytical or tabular statement. Later, around 1884, it was a system of correlated things, institutions, or arrangement. The most common example would be a color scheme, which is a system of selection and arrangement of colors adopted in a specific piece of art.
"Scheme." In Online Etymology Dictionary. N.p.: n.p., 2001-2012. Accessed November 21, 2012.
"scheme, n.1". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/172317 (accessed November 21, 2012).
"scheme, v.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/172319?rskey=zSAnXX&result=3&isAdvanced=false (accessed November 21, 2012).