1520s, "measured or prescribed size," altered (to conform to -ling words) from earlier scantlon, scantiloun, scantillon "dimension" (c. 1400), earlier a type of mason's rod for measuring thickness (c. 1300), a shortening of Old French escantillon (Modern French échantillon "sample pattern"), which is of uncertain origin; traditionally regarded as a deformed word ultimately from Latin scandere "to climb" (see scan (v.)). The sense has been influenced by scant (adj.). Meaning "small wooden beam" is by 1660s. Related: Scantlings.
updated on January 16, 2022