a piece of fabric made of plaited or woven rushes, straw, hemp, or similar fiber, or of some other pliant material, as rubber, used as a protective covering on a floor or other surface, to wipe the shoes on, etc.
a smaller piece of material, often ornamental, set under a dish of food, a lamp, vase, etc.
the padded canvas covering the entire floor of a wrestling ring, for protecting the contestants from injury when thrown.
a thick pad placed on the floor for the protection of tumblers and others engaged in gymnastic sports.
a thickly growing or thick and tangled mass, as of hair or weeds.
a sack made of matting, as for coffee or sugar.
a slablike footing of concrete, especially one for an entire building.
O.E. matte, from L.L. matta "mat made of rushes" (4c.), probably from Punic or Phoenician (cf. Heb. mittah "bed, couch"). Meaning "piece of padded flooring used in gymnastics or wrestling" is attested from 1903.
Fight until one side or another is victorious, as in The governor said he'd go to the mat for this bill. This term comes from wrestling and evokes the holding of an opponent when both contestants are down on the mat, the padded floor-covering used in matches. It has been used figuratively since about 1900.