"act of burying," late 13c.; earlier "tomb" (c. 1200), false singular from Old English byrgels "tomb," from byrgan "to bury" + suffix -els; a compound also found in Old Saxon burgisli, suggesting a Proto-Germanic *burgisli-, from PIE root *bhergh- (1) "to hide, protect." The Germanic suffix *-isli- (also in riddle (n.1), Old English hydels "hiding place," fætels "bag") became obsolete and was felt as a plural of the Latin-derived suffix -al (2) forming nouns of action from verbs (survival, approval, removal, etc.). In the "act of burying a dead person" sense it is now regarded as bury + -al. Burial-ground is from 1803.
1510s, "to enclose with a fence;" c. 1600 as "to enclose or fortify with an embankment;" see mound (n.). From 1859 as "to heap up." Related: Mounded; mounding.
1550s, "hedge, fence," also "an embankment, a dam" (a sense probably influenced by mount (n.)), a word of obscure origin. The relationship between the noun and the verb is uncertain.
Commonly supposed to be from Middle English mounde "the hand; guardianship, power," from Old English mund (cognate with Latin manus), but this is not certain (OED discounts it on grounds of sense). Perhaps it is a confusion of the native word and Middle Dutch mond "protection," used in military sense for fortifications of various types, including earthworks.
From 1726 as "artificial elevation of earth" (as over a grave); 1810 as "natural low elevation." As the place where the pitcher stands on a baseball field, from 1912. Mound-builder "one of the prehistoric race of the Mississippi Valley that erected extensive earthworks" is by 1838.
In Middle English mounde also meant "the world," from Old French monde, from Latin mundus (see mundane).
"mound, hill, grave-mound," Old English beorg (West Saxon), berg (Anglian) "barrow, mountain, hill, mound," from Proto-Germanic *bergaz (source also of Middle Dutch berch, Old Saxon, Old High German berg "mountain," Old Frisian berch, birg "mountain, mountainous area," Old Norse bjarg "rock, mountain"), from PIE root *bhergh- (2) "high," with derivatives referring to hills and hill-forts.
Obsolete by c. 1400 except in place-names and southwest England dialect; revived by modern archaeology. Meaning "mound erected over a grave" was in late Old English. Barrow-wight first recorded 1869 in Eirikr Magnusson and William Morris's translation of the Icelandic saga of Grettir the Strong.
In place-names used of small continuously curving hills, smaller than a dun, with the summit typically occupied by a single farmstead or by a village church with the village beside the hill, and also of burial mounds. [Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names]
Watkins suggests it is perhaps from PIE root *teue- "to swell," but Beekes writes that it is probably a Pre-Greek (non-IE) word. He writes that Latin tumulus "earth-hill" and Armenian t'umb "landfill, earthen wall" "may contain the same Pre-Greek/Mediterranean word," and suggests further connections to Middle Irish tomm "small hill," Middle Welsh tom "dung, mound."
The final -b began to be silent about the time of the spelling shift (compare lamb, dumb). Modern French tombeau is from Vulgar Latin diminutive *tumbellus. The Tombs, slang for "New York City prison" is recorded from 1840.