1590s, "of or pertaining to Cordova," the Spanish city, former capital of Moorish Spain (modern Córdoba); the name is said to be Carthaginian, from Phoenician qorteb "oil press."
As a noun, "fine Spanish leather," 1620s, from Spanish cordovan (modern cordoban), from cordovano (adj.) "of Cordova." This is a later adoption of the word that had come into English earlier as cordwain, cordewane (see cordwain).
updated on March 31, 2018