c. 1300, "slab or flat surface for an inscription" (especially the two Mosaic tables of stone), from Old French tablete "small table, merchant's display counter" (13c., Modern French tablette), diminutive of table "slab," or from Medieval Latin tabuleta (source also of Spanish tableta, Italian tavoletta), diminutive of Latin tabula (see table (n.)). The meaning "lozenge, pill" is first recorded 1580s; that of "pad of writing paper" in 1880.
Entries linking to tablet
late 12c., "board, slab, plate," from Old French table "board, square panel, plank; writing table; picture; food, fare" (11c.), and late Old English tabele "writing tablet, gaming table," from Germanic *tabal (source also of Dutch tafel, Danish tavle, Old High German zabel "board, plank," German Tafel). Both the French and Germanic words are from Latin tabula "a board, plank; writing table; list, schedule; picture, painted panel," originally "small flat slab or piece" usually for inscriptions or for games (source also of Spanish tabla, Italian tavola), of uncertain origin, related to Umbrian tafle "on the board."
The sense of "piece of furniture with the flat top and legs" first recorded c. 1300 (the usual Latin word for this was mensa (see mensa); Old English writers used bord (see board (n.1)). Especially the table at which people eat, hence "food placed upon a table" (c. 1400 in English). The meaning "arrangement of numbers or other figures on a tabular surface for convenience" is recorded from late 14c. (as in table of contents, mid-15c.).
Figurative phrase turn the tables (1630s) is from backgammon (in Old and Middle English the game was called tables). Table talk "familiar conversation around a table" is attested from 1560s, translating Latin colloquia mensalis. Table manners is from 1824. Table-hopping is recorded by 1943. The adjectival phrase under-the-table "hidden from view" is recorded from 1949; to be under the table "passed out from excess drinking" is recorded from 1913. Table tennis "ping-pong" is recorded from 1887. Table-rapping in spiritualism, supposedly an effect of supernatural powers, is from 1853.
1884, Tabloid, "small tablet of medicine," trademark name (by Burroughs, Wellcome and Co.) for compressed or concentrated chemicals and drugs, a hybrid formed from tablet + Greek-derived suffix -oid. By 1898, it was being used figuratively to mean a compressed form or dose of anything, hence tabloid journalism (1901), and newspapers that typified it (1917), so called for having short, condensed news articles and/or for being small in size. Associated originally with Alfred C. Harmsworth, editor and proprietor of the London Daily Mail.
Mr. Harmsworth entered a printing office twenty years ago as office-boy, and today owns thirty periodicals besides The Mail. Upon a friendly challenge from Mr. Pulitzer of The New York World, the English journalist issued the first number of The World for the new century in the ideal form. The size of the page was reduced to four columns and the general make-up was similar in appearance to that of one of the weekly magazines. Current news was presented in condensed and tabulated form, of which the editor says: "The world enters today upon the twentieth or time-saving century. I claim that by my system of condensed or tabloid journalism hundreds of working hours can be saved each year." ["The Twentieth Century Newspaper," in The Social Gospel, February 1901]
updated on April 06, 2014