gingerbread (n.) Look up gingerbread at
late 13c., gingerbrar, "preserved ginger," from Old French ginginbrat "ginger preserve," from Medieval Latin gingimbratus "gingered," from gingiber (see ginger). The ending changed by folk etymology to -brede "bread," a formation attested by mid-14c. Meaning "sweet cake spiced with ginger" is from 15c. Figurative use, indicating anything considered showy and insubstantial, is from c. 1600. Sense of "fussy decoration on a house" is first recorded 1757; gingerbread-work (1748) was a sailor's term for carved decoration on a ship. Gingerbread-man as a confection is from 1850; the rhyme ("The Chase of the Gingerbread Man," by Ella M. White) is from 1898.