marble (n.)

type of crystalline limestone much used in sculpture, monuments, etc., early 14c., by dissimilation from marbra (mid-12c.), from Old French marbre (which itself underwent dissimilation of 2nd -r- to -l- in 14c.; marbre persisted in English into early 15c.), from Latin marmor, from or cognate with Greek marmaros "marble, gleaming stone," of unknown origin, perhaps originally an adjective meaning "sparkling," which would connect it with marmairein "to shine."

Marblestone is attested from c. 1200, and the Latin word was taken directly into Old English as marma. German Marmor is restored Latin from Old High German marmul. Meaning "piece of sculptured or inscribed marble" (especially a marble tomb or tombstone) is from early 14c. Meaning "little ball of marble used in a children's game" is attested from 1690s; see marbles.

Related entries & more