c. 1600, "tearful," from Middle English fem. proper name Maudelen (early 14c.), from Magdalene (Old French Madelaine), woman's name, originally surname of Mary the repentant sinner forgiven by Jesus in Luke vii.37 (see Magdalene). In paintings, she often was shown weeping as a sign of repentance. Meaning "characterized by tearful sentimentality" is recorded by 1630s.
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