A mandolin can be a type of kitchen utensil used for slicing, or a lute-like musical instrument. The former definition came from the latter; there are some myths about it being named after a woman called Mandy, but it's more likely from the similarity of the wrist motion or the taut strings. The name for the instrument was borrowed in the early eighteenth century from French mandoline and Italian mandolino. That's a diminutive of the earlier word mandola, which describes a similar instrument with lower pitches than the mandolin we know today. Going even further back, the word for that comes from Late Latin pandura and Ancient Greek pandoura, referring to a type of three-stringed lute. Pandoura has uncertain origins: some linguists suggest a pre-Greek origin, and others identify possible cognates in Armenian and Georgian, which would make it foreign.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.