"small mallet used by presiding officers at meetings," 1805, Amer.Eng., of unknown origin; perhaps connected with Ger. dial. gaffel
"brotherhood, friendly society," from M.H.G. gaffel
"society, guild," related to O.E. gafol
"to give" (see habit
). But in some sources gavel
also is identified as a type of mason's tool, in which case the extended meaning may be via freemasonry.