1610s, "mime actor, one who expresses meaning by action, not words," from Latin pantomimus "mime, dancer," from Greek pantomimos "actor," literally "imitator of all," from panto- (genitive of pan) "all" (see pan-) + mimos "imitator" (see mime (n.)).
The original sense is archaic or obsolete. The meaning "drama or play without words," in which the plot is expressed by mute gestures, is recorded by 1735. The English dramatic performances so called, usually produced at Christmas and with words and songs and stock characters, are attested by this name from 1739; said to have originated c. 1717. Related: Pantomimic; pantomimical.