Word Origin & History
"small hand-held firearm," c.1570, from M.Fr. pistole "short firearm" (1566), of uncertain origin, sometimes said to be from Ger. Pistole, from Czech pis'tala "firearm," lit. "tube, pipe," from pisteti "to whistle," of imitative origin, related to Rus. pischal "shepherd's pipe." But earlier form pistolet
(1550) is from M.Fr. pistolet "a small firearm," also "a small dagger," which may be the literal sense; though some connect this word with It. pistolese, in reference to Pistoia, town in Tuscany noted for gunsmithing. Pistol-whip is first recorded 1942.