mail

\ \ English has two extant words mail. The one meaning ‘post’ [13] goes back via Old French to Old High German malha, which meant ‘bag, pouch’. That indeed was what the word originally denoted in English (and modern French malle is still used for a ‘bag’). It was not until the 17th century that a specific application to a ‘bag for carrying letters’ emerged, and this was followed in the next century by the ‘letters, etc so carried’. Mailchain-armour’ [14] comes via Old French maillemesh’ from Latin macula, which originally meant ‘spot, stain’ (hence English immaculate [15], etymologically ‘spotless’), but was transferred to the ‘holes in a net’, from their appearance of being spots or marks. The word maquis, made familiar in English during World War II as a term for the French resistance forces, means literally ‘scrub, undergrowth’ in French.
\ \ It was borrowed from Italian macchia, a descendant of Latin macula, whose literal sense ‘spot’ was applied metaphorically to ‘bushes dotted over a hillside’.
\ \ English once had a third word mail, meaning ‘payment, tax’ [12]. It was borrowed from Old Norse málspeech, agreement’. It now survives only in blackmail [16].
\ \ Cf.IMMACULATE, MAQUIS

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

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