fine-wool breed of sheep originally from Spain, 1781, from Spanish merino, possibly from Arabic Merini, a Berber family or tribe of sheep farmers in northwest Africa whose animals were imported into Spain 14c.-15c. to improve local breeds. Or from or influenced by Medieval Latin maiorinus, from maior "greater," either in reference to size of the animals or from Spanish derivative merino (n.) "overseer of cattle pastures," also a title of judicial officers. Applied from early 19c. to the wool itself and to various articles made from it.