1670s, "wedge-shaped," from French cunéiforme (16c.), from Latin cuneus "a wedge, wedge-shaped thing," which is of unknown origin, + French -forme (see form (n.)). German physician and traveler Engelbert Kämpfer (1681-1716) first applied the word to characters in ancient Middle Eastern inscriptions made with wedge-shaped writing tools; in English this sense is attested from 1818. As a noun, "cuneiform writing," by 1862.
updated on June 06, 2018