"tree of the genus Acer," c. 1300, mapel, from Old English mapultreow "maple tree," also mapolder, mapuldre, related to Old Norse möpurr, Old Saxon mapulder, Middle Low German mapeldorn, from Proto-Germanic *maplo-. There also was a Proto-Germanic *matlo- (source also of Old High German mazzaltra, German maszholder), but the connection and origins are mysterious.
Native to northern temperate regions, some of the species are valued for their wood, some for their sugar, some as shade or ornamental trees. The forms in -le are from c. 1400. Formerly with adjectival form mapelin (early 15c.; Old English mapuldern). Maple syrup attested from 1824, American English (earlier maple molasses, 1804). The maple leaf is mentioned as the emblem of Canada from 1850 (an 1843 Canadian source says it "has been adopted as an emblem by our French Canadian brethren").