Today, the noun mall is primarily used to refer to those large buildings with lots of stores inside, but enclosed shopping malls have only been around since the 1950s. Before that, the word meant "shaded promenade" (just like the National Mall in Washington). The definition changed in the 1960s on the notion that such promenades frequently had stores lining them, and this was just an indoor version of that. The word mall comes from the name of a particular tree-lined street in London called the Pall Mall (coincidentally, also the source of the eponymous brand of cigarettes). That, bizarrely enough, is in turn named after a croquet-like lawn game that was played on the street, and it ultimately comes from the Italian words for "ball", palla, and "mallet", maglio. Such a weird history for a seemingly innocuous word.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.