1570s, "likeness made to scale; architect's set of designs," from French modelle (16c., Modern French modèle), from Italian modello "a model, mold," from Vulgar Latin *modellus, from Latin modulus "a small measure, standard," diminutive of modus "manner, measure" (from PIE root *med- "take appropriate measures"). Sense of "a standard for imitation or comparison, thing or person that serves or may serve as a pattern or type" is from 1630s.
If the Model Boy was in either of these Sunday-schools, I did not see him. The Model Boy of my time—we never had but the one—was perfect: perfect in manners, perfect in dress, perfect in conduct, perfect in filial piety, perfect in exterior godliness; but at bottom he was a prig; and as for the contents of his skull, they could have changed place with the contents of a pie and nobody would have been the worse off for it but the pie. ["Mark Twain," "Life on the Mississippi," 1883]
Meaning "motor vehicle of a particular design" is from 1900 (such as Model T, 1908; Model A, 1927; Ford's other early models included C, F, and B). Sense of "artist's model, living person who serves as the type of a figure to be painted or sculpted" is recorded by 1690s; that of "fashion model" is from 1904. German, Swedish modell, Dutch, Danish model are from French or Italian.
c. 1600, "describe in detail" (a sense now obsolete); 1660s, "fashion a figure or imitation (of something) in clay or wax," from model (n.). Earlier was modelize (c. 1600). From 1730 as "construct or arrange in a set manner." From 1915 in the sense "to act as a fashion model, to display (clothes)." Related: Modeled; modeling; modelled; modelling.
"serving as a model; worthy to serve as an exemplar," 1844, from model (n.). Model railway is by 1864.
also modelling, 1650s, "action of bringing into desired condition," verbal noun from model (v.). Meaning "action of making models" (in clay, wax, etc.) is from 1799. Meaning "work of a fashion model" is from 1941. Modeling-clay is by 1886; modeling agency is by 1943.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "take appropriate measures."
It forms all or part of: accommodate; accommodation; commode; commodious; commodity; empty; immoderate; immodest; Medea; medical; medicament; medicaster; medicate; medication; medicine; medico; medico-; meditate; meditation; Medusa; meet (adj.) "proper, fitting;" mete (v.) "to allot;" modal; mode; model; moderate; modern; modest; modicum; modify; modular; modulate; module; modulation; mold (n.1) "hollow shape;" mood (n.2) "grammatical form indicating the function of a verb;" must (v.); premeditate; premeditation; remedial; remediation; remedy.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit midiur "I judge, estimate;" Avestan vi-mad- "physician;" Greek mēdomai "be mindful of," medesthai "think about," medein "to rule," medon "ruler;" Latin meditari "think or reflect on, consider," modus "measure, manner," modestus "moderate," modernus "modern," mederi "to heal, give medical attention to, cure;" Irish miduir "judge;" Welsh meddwl "mind, thinking;" Gothic miton, Old English metan "to measure out."