Old English camb (later Anglian comb) "thin strip of toothed, stiff material" (for dressing the hair), also "fleshy crest growing on the head of the domestic fowl" (so called for its serrations), hence "crest of a hat, helmet, etc.;" also "honeycomb" (for which see honeycomb (n.)) , from Proto-Germanic *kambaz (source also of Old Saxon and Old High German camb, German Kamm, Middle Dutch cam, Dutch kam, Old Norse kambr), literally "toothed object," from PIE *gombhos, from root *gembh- "tooth, nail."
From c. 1300 as a tool for carding wool (probably earlier; Comber as a surname is from c. 1200). Comb-paper (1866) is marbled paper in which the design is produced mostly by use of a comb.
c. 1400 (implied in past participle kombid), "to dress (the hair) with a comb," a verb derived from comb (n.) and replacing the former verb, Old English cemban, which however survives in unkempt. Meaning "to card (wool)" is from 1570s. Colloquial sense "to search, examine closely" is by 1904, American English. Related: Combed; combing.
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