early 14c. (late 13c. as a surname), "seller of small articles of trade" (caps, purses, beads, thread, stationery, etc.), from Anglo-French, where apparently it was an agent noun formation from hapertas "small wares," also a kind of fabric, a word of unknown origin. Sense of "dealer in men's wares" is 1887 in American English, via intermediate sense of "seller of caps." Middle English haberdash (n.) "small articles of trade sold by a haberdasher" appears to be a back-formation from this word, and the verb haberdash is late (1630s) and rare.