Old English mentel "loose, sleeveless cloak," from Latin mantellum "cloak" (source of Italian mantello, Old High German mantal, German Mantel, Old Norse mötull), perhaps from a Celtic source. Reinforced and altered 12c. by cognate Old French mantel "cloak, mantle; bedspread, cover" (Modern French manteau), also from the Latin source. Figurative sense "that which enshrouds" is from c. 1300. Allusive use for "symbol of literary authority or artistic pre-eminence" is from Elijah's mantle (II Kings ii.13). As a layer of the earth between the crust and core (though not originally distinguished from the core) it is attested from 1940.