c. 1400, padell "small, long-handled spade used to remove earth adhering to a plow," probably from Medieval Latin padela, a word of uncertain origin, perhaps from Latin patella "small pan, little dish, plate," diminutive of patina (see pan (n.)). Meaning "short oar with a wide blade" (or two, one at each end) is from 1620s. As an instrument used for beating clothes (and slaves, and schoolboys), it is recorded from 1828, American English. As "fin-like forelimb of a sea creature," by 1835. Paddle-ball is attested from 1935.