"mountaineer, highlander," 1842, from French montagnard, from montagne (12c.; see mountain). In French history, one of the extreme democratic party in the legislatures of the Revolution, supposedly so called because they occupied the highest benches in the National Assembly; hence in later use applied to any French radical or extreme liberal. The French also transferred the word in its literal sense to the aboriginal people of the highlands of South Vietnam (by 1962 in English).
updated on February 19, 2019