"stage erected in a church to support a coffin during a funeral," 1640s, from French catafalque (17c.), or directly from Italian catafalco "scaffold," which is of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Vulgar Latin *catafalicum, from Greek kata "down" (see cata-), used in Medieval Latin with a sense of "beside, alongside" + fala "scaffolding, wooden siege tower," a word said to be of Etruscan origin. The Medieval Latin word also yielded Old French chaffaut, chafaud (Modern French échafaud) "scaffold."
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