"a slattern, woman of the lower classes," c.1275, from fem. proper name Malkyn, a dim. of Mault "Maud" (see Matilda). Also attested from c.1207 as the proper name of a female specter. Sense of "untidy woman" led to meaning "mop, bundle of rags on a stick" (used to clean
ovens, artillery pieces, etc.), c.1400. Attested as the name of a cat since 1673; used in Scotland and northern England as the name of a hare (1724).