c. 1300, "portable shelter of skins or coarse cloth stretched over poles," from Old French tente "tent, hanging, tapestry" (12c.), from Medieval Latin tenta "a tent," literally "something stretched out," noun use of fem. singular of Latin tentus "stretched," variant past participle of tendere "to stretch," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch." The notion is of "stretching" hides over a framework. Tent caterpillar first recorded 1854, so called from the tent-like silken webs in which they live gregariously.