1540s, "long, narrow flat-bottomed boat used in Venice," from Italian (Venetian) gondola, earlier in English as goundel, from Old Italian gondula, of unknown origin; according to Barnhart, perhaps a diminutive of gonda, a name of a kind of boat. Used of flat, open railway cars by 1871. Meaning "cabin of an airship" is from 1896, though it was used hypothetically in 1881 in a futurism piece titled "300 Years Hence." Of ski-lifts from 1957.
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