small finch-like Eurasian songbird, 1530s, from Middle French linette "grain of flax," diminutive of lin "flax," from Latin linum "flax, linen thread" (see linen). Flaxseed forms much of the bird's diet. Old English name for the bird, linetwige, with second element perhaps meaning "to pluck," yielded Middle English and dialectal lintwhite. Also compare German Hänfling "linnet," from Hanf hemp.
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