16c., camuse, camfeo, etc. (from early 13c. in Anglo-L.), "carved precious stone with two layers of colors," from It. cammeo (13c.), from M.L. cammæus, of unknown origin, perhaps ultimately from Arabic qamaa'il "flower buds," or Pers. chumahan "agate." Transferred sense of "small character or part that stands out from other minor parts" in a play, etc., is from 1928, from earlier meaning "short literary sketch or portrait" (1851).