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mid-14c., "imported oak of superior quality," probably from Middle Dutch or Middle Flemish waghenscote "superior quality oak wood, board used for paneling" (though neither of these is attested as early as the English word), related to Middle Low German wagenschot (late 14c.), from waghen (see wagon) + scote "partition, crossbar." So called perhaps because the wood originally was used for wagon building and coachwork. Meaning "panels lining the walls of rooms" is recorded from 1540s. Wainscoting is from 1570s.
interior paneling in general and, more specifically, paneling that covers only the lower portion of an interior wall or partition. It has a decorative or protective function and is usually of wood, although tile and marble have at times been popular. The molding along the upper edge is called a wainscot cap and may serve as a chair rail