Etymology
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mortarboard (n.)

also mortar-board, 1823, "square board used by masons to hold mortar for plastering," from mortar (n.1) + board (n.1). By 1854 in reference to the academic cap, probably so called because it resembles the mason's board. Earlier it was called a mortar cap (1680s) or simply morter (c. 1600), from French mortier.

updated on February 25, 2019

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Definitions of mortarboard from WordNet

mortarboard (n.)
a square board with a handle underneath; used by masons to hold or carry mortar;
Synonyms: hawk
mortarboard (n.)
an academic cap with a flat square with a tassel on top;
From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.