c. 1300 (early 13c. as a surname), "one who mines, a person engaged in digging for metals or minerals or in digging a military mine," from Old French mineour (13c.), agent noun from miner "to mine" (see mine (v.1)).
1520s, "the business or work of a miner," verbal noun from mine (v.1). From c. 1300 as "the undermining of walls or towers in a military attack." Mining-camp "temporary settlement for mining purposes" is by 1853, in a California context.
"lay explosives," 1620s, in reference to old tactic of tunneling under enemy fortifications to blow them up; a specialized sense of mine (v.1) via a sense of "dig under foundations to undermine them" (late 14c.), and miner in this sense is attested from late 13c. Related: Mined; mining.
c. 1300, minen, "to dig a tunnel under fortifications to overthrow them," from mine (n.1) or from Old French miner "to dig, mine; exterminate," from the French noun. From mid-14c. as "to dig in the earth" (in order to obtain minerals, treasure, etc.). Figurative meaning "ruin or destroy by slow or secret methods" is from mid-14c. Transitive sense of "to extract by mining" is from late 14c. For the sense of "to lay (explosive) mines," see mine (v.2). Related: Mined; mining.
late 14c., "substance obtained by mining," from Old French mineral and directly from Medieval Latin minerale "something mined," noun use of neuter of mineralis "pertaining to mines," from minera "a mine" (see mine (n.1)).
Meaning "material substance that is neither animal nor vegetable" is attested from early 15c. The modern scientific sense ("inorganic body occurring in nature, homogeneous and having a definite chemical composition and certain distinguishing physical characteristics") is by 1813.
As an adjective, early 15c., "neither animal nor vegetable, inorganic," from Old French mineral and directly from Medieval Latin mineralis. The sense of "impregnated with minerals" is first in mineral water (early 15c.), which originally was "water found in nature with some mineral substance dissolved in it" (later made so artificially).
"edged instrument for hewing timber and chopping wood," also a battle weapon, Old English æces (Northumbrian acas) "axe, pickaxe, hatchet," later æx, from Proto-Germanic *akusjo (source also of Old Saxon accus, Old Norse ex, Old Frisian axe, German Axt, Gothic aqizi), from PIE *agw(e)si- "axe" (source also of Greek axine, Latin ascia).
The spelling ax is better on every ground, of etymology, phonology, and analogy, than axe, which became prevalent during the 19th century; but it is now disused in Britain. [OED]
The spelling ax, though "better on every ground, of etymology, phonology, & analogy" (OED), is so strange to 20th-c. eyes that it suggests pedantry & is unlikely to be restored. [Fowler]
The meaning "musical instrument" is 1955, originally jazz slang for the saxophone; rock slang for "guitar" dates to 1967.
To have an axe to grind is from a Sept. 7, 1810, essay in the Luzerne (Pennsylvania) "Gleaner" by U.S. editor and politician Charles Miner (1780-1865) in which a man flatters a boy and gets him to do the chore of axe-grinding for him, then leaves without offering thanks or recompense. It was published in a collection in 1815 titled "Essays From the Desk of Poor Robert the Scribe." The story ("Who'll Turn the Grindstone?") has been misattributed since late 19c. to Benjamin Franklin, a mistake continued in Weekley, OED print edition, "Century Dictionary," and many other sources (Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations" has gotten it right since 1870).