c. 1600, "a buffoon who practices gesticulations" [Johnson], from French mime "mimic actor" (16c.) and directly from Latin mimus, from Greek mimos "imitator, mimic, actor, mime, buffoon," a word of unknown origin. In reference to a performance, 1932 as "a pantomime," earlier (1640s) in a classical context: The ancient mimes of the Italian Greeks and Romans were dramatic performances, generally vulgar, with spoken lines, consisting of farcical mimicry of real events and persons.
1610s, "to act without words," from mime (n.). The transferred sense of "to mimic, to imitate" is from 1733 (Greek mimeisthai meant "to imitate, portray," in art, "to express by means of imitation"). Meaning "to pretend to be singing a pre-recorded song to lip-sync" is by 1965. Related: mimed; miming.