1765, "feminine finery, something used by women purely for adornment," from French chiffon (17c.), diminutive of chiffe "a rag, piece of cloth" (17c.), which is of unknown origin, perhaps a variant of English chip (n.1) or one of its Germanic cousins. Klein suggests Arabic. Meaning "sheer silk fabric, thin gauze" is from 1890. Extension to pastry is attested by 1929, probably on the notion of "lightness."