late 13c., "white fibrous substance containing the seeds of the cotton plant," from Old French coton (12c.), ultimately (via Provenal, Italian, or Old Spanish) from Arabic qutn, a word perhaps of Egyptian origin. Also ultimately from the Arabic word are Dutch katoen, German Kattun, Provenal coton, Italian cotone, Spanish algodon, Portuguese algodo.
As "cloth made of cotton," from early 15c. Meaning "the cotton plant" is from c. 1400. As an adjective, "made of cotton," from 1550s. Cotton gin is recorded from 1794 (see gin (n.2)). Philip Miller of the Chelsea Physic Garden sent the first cotton seeds to American colony of Georgia in 1732.