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1660s, from French brunette (masc. brunet), from Old French brunet "brownish, brown-haired, dark-complexioned," fem. diminutive of brun "brown" (12c.), of West Germanic origin (see brown (adj.)). As a noun, "woman of a dark complexion," from 1710. The metathesized form, Old French burnete, is the source of the surname Burnett. Burnete also was used of a wool-dyed cloth of superior quality, originally dark brown.