also court martial, "court of military or naval officers to try cases of desertion, mutiny, etc.," 1650s (plural courts martial), originally martial court (1570s), from court (n.) + martial (adj.). Word-order changed on the model of French cour martiale. As a verb, from 1859. Related: Court-martialed. Middle English had court-spiritual "ecclesiastical court" (late 15c.).