late 14c., mewet "silent, not speaking," from Old French muet "dumb, mute" (12c.), diminutive of mut, mo, from Latin mutus "silent, speechless, dumb," probably from imitative base *meue- (source also of Sanskrit mukah "dumb," Greek myein "to be shut," of the mouth). Form assimilated in 16c. to Latin mutus. The meaning "incapable of utterance, dumb" is by mid-15c.
late 14c. (late 12c. as a surname), "person who does not speak" (from inability, unwillingness, etc.), from mute (adj.). From 1570s as "stage actor in a dumb show." The musical sense "device to deaden the resonance or tone of an instrument" is by 1811 of stringed instruments, 1841 of horns.