"decimal part of a logarithm," 1865, from Latin mantisa "a worthless addition, makeweight," perhaps a Gaulish word introduced into Latin via Etruscan (compare Old Irish meit, Welsh maint "size"). So called as being "additional" to the characteristic or integral part. The Latin word was used in 17c. English in the sense of "an addition of small importance to a literary work, etc."
updated on November 17, 2018