c. 1600, "tearful, weeping" (a sense now obsolete), from Middle English fem. proper name Maudelen (early 14c.), from Magdalene (Old French Madelaine), woman's name, who in the Middle Ages was believed to be identical with the repentant sinner forgiven by Jesus in Luke vii.37 (see Magdalene). Thus in paintings, she often was shown weeping as a sign of repentance. Meaning "characterized by tearful sentimentality, over-emotional" is recorded by 1630s. Also in old slang "tipsy, foolish from drink" (by 1700), from maudlin-drunk (1610s) "in the sentimental and tearful stage of intoxication."
updated on October 21, 2020