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1590s, from hebenyf (late 14c.), perhaps a Middle English misreading of Latin hebeninus "of ebony," from Greek ebeninos, from ebenos "ebony," probably from Egyptian hbnj or another Semitic source. Figurative use to suggest intense blackness is from 1620s. As an adjective, from 1590s. French ébène, Old High German ebenus (German Ebenholz) are from Latin ebenus.
a black, hard wood, brought by the merchants from India to Tyre (Ezek. 27:15). It is the heart-wood, brought by Diospyros ebenus, which grows in Ceylon and Southern India.