late 14c., "to decorate, adorn, beautify," also in Middle English "equip (a place) for defense; arm (oneself) for battle; prepare to defend," from Old French garniss-, present participle stem of garnir "provide, furnish; fortify, reinforce" (11c.), from Frankish *warnjan, from Proto-Germanic *warnon "be cautious, guard, provide for" (source also of Old High German warnon "to take heed," Old English warnian "to take warning, beware;" see warn), from PIE root *wer- (4) "to cover."
Sense evolution is from "arm oneself" to "fit out" to "embellish," which was the earliest meaning in English. Culinary sense of "to decorate a dish for the table" predominated after c. 1700. Older meaning survives in legal sense of "to warn or serve notice of attachment of funds" (1570s). Related: Garnished; garnishing.
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