"shoemaker, leatherworker," originally "a worker in Cordovan leather," mid-14c.; mid-12c. as a surname, from Anglo-French cordewaner, from Old French cordoan "(leather) of Cordova," the Spanish city whose leather was famous for quality. Compare cordovan, a later borrowing directly from Spanish.
It is sometimes goatskin tanned and dressed, but more frequently split horsehide; it differs from morocco in being prepared from heavy skins and in retaining its natural grain. During the middle ages the finest leather came from Spain; the shoes of ladies and gentlemen of rank are often said to be of cordwain. [Century Dictionary]
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