"associate, fellow, comrade," mid-14c., also "companion" (late 14c.), from Middle Low German mate, gemate "one eating at the same table, messmate," from Proto-Germanic *ga-maton "having food (*matiz) together (*ga-)," which is etymologically identical with companion. Cognate with Danish and Swedish mat, German Maat "mate," Dutch maat, from German. Meaning "one of a wedded pair" is attested from 1540s. Used as a form of address by sailors, laborers, etc., at least since mid-15c. Meaning "officer on a merchant vessel is from late 15c.