1595-1605; earlier carabine < Middle French: small harquebus, weapon borne by a carabin a lightly armed cavalryman, compared with (e)scarabin gravedigger for plague victims (< Provençal, akin to Frenchescarbot cockchafer, dung beetle ≪ Latinscarabaeusscarab), though semantic change is unclear
1590, from Fr. carabine, used of light horsemen and also of the weapon they carried, perhaps from M.L. Calabrinus "Calabrian." One far-fetched theory connects it to O.Fr. escarrabin "corpse-bearer during the plague," lit. (probably) "carrion beetle," said to have been an epithet for archers from Flanders.