mid-14c., "wooden framework used in building, etc., temporary structure for workmen to make walls," a shortening of an Old North French variant of Old French eschafaut "scaffold" (Modern French échafaud), probably altered (by influence of eschace "a prop, support") from chaffaut, from Vulgar Latin *catafalicum, from Greek kata- "down" (see cata-), used in Medieval Latin with a sense of "beside, alongside" + fala "scaffolding, wooden siege tower," a word said to be of Etruscan origin. Meaning "platform for a hanging" is from 1550s. Dutch schavot, German Schafott, Danish skafot are from French. As a verb from 1540s.
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