c. 1500 of spices; by 1829 of language; from garble (v.).
early 15c., "to inspect and remove the dirt and dross from (spices)," from Anglo-French garbeler "to sift" (late 14c.) and directly from Medieval Latin and Italian garbellare, from Arabic gharbala "to sift and select spices," related to kirbal "sieve," perhaps from Late Latin cribellum, diminutive of Latin cribrum "sieve" (from PIE root *krei- "to sieve"). Apparently the word was widespread among Mediterranean traders (compare Italian garbellare, Spanish garbillare "to sift grain").
From late 15c. in a general sense of "sort out the finer parts" of anything, "removal of what is objectionable," then "distort for some devious purpose or to give false impression;" especially "mix up, confuse or distort language" (1680s). Related: Garbled; garbling. In Middle English garbeler (Anglo-French garbelour) meant "official who garbles spices and sometimes also other dry goods" (early 15c.); it is attested from 1690s as "one who mixes up or mutilates words or language."
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