1960, acronym for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation," on pattern of maser (1955). A corresponding verb, lase, was coined by 1962. Related: Lasered; lasering. Laser disc recorded from 1980. Earlier laser was the name of a type of gum-resin from North Africa used medicinally (1570s), from Latin; still earlier it was an Old English and Middle English name for some weed, probably cockle.
updated on May 18, 2016