1594, from It. giraffa,
from Ar. zarafa,
probably from an African language. Earlier M.E. spellings varied wildly, depending on the source, including jarraf, ziraph,
the last apparently reflecting some confusion with olifaunt
"elephant." Replaced earlier camelopard,
a compound of camel
(for the long neck) and pard
(1) "leopard" (for the spots).