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c.1300, from Old French columbine "columbine," or directly from Medieval Latin columbina, from Late Latin columbina "verbena," fem. of Latin columbinus, literally "dove-like," from columba "dove." The inverted flower supposedly resembles a cluster of five doves. Also a fem. proper name; in Italian comedy, the name of the mistress of Harlequin.
stock theatrical character that originated about 1530 in Italian commedia dell'arte as a saucy and adroit servant girl; her Italian name means "Little Dove." Her costume included a cap and apron but seldom a commedia mask, and she usually spoke in the Tuscan dialect. In French theatre the character became a lady's maid and intrigant and assumed a variety of roles opposite Cassandre, Pantalone (Pantaloon), Harlequin, and Pierrot. In English comedies she was usually the daughter or ward of Pantaloon and in love with Harlequin. The soubrette of the 20th-century musical comedy is a version of the Columbine character