in Greek mythology a flesh-eating monster with a human body and the head of a bull, late 14c., from Greek minotauros, from Minos, king of Crete (compare Minoan), + tauros "bull" (see Taurus). The son of Pasiphae (wife of Minos) by a bull, he was confined in the labyrinth and killed by the Athenian hero Theseus.
Apparently from a pre-Greek language; traditionally connected to Lydian labrys "double-edged axe," symbol of royal power, which fits with the theory that the original labyrinth was the royal Minoan palace on Crete. It thus would mean "palace of the double-axe." But Beekes finds this "speculative" and compares laura "narrow street, narrow passage, alley, quarter," also identified as a pre-Greek word. Used in English for "maze" early 15c., and in figurative sense of "confusing state of affairs" (1540s). As the name of a structure of the inner ear, the essential organ of hearing, from 1690s.