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c.1300, "narrow band or strip of cloth" (oldest use is as a technical term in heraldry), from Old French label, lambel "ribbon, fringe worn on clothes" (13c., Modern French lambeau "strip, rag, shred, tatter"), possibly from Frankish *labba or some other Germanic source (cf. Old High German lappa "flap"), from Proto-Germanic *lapp- (see lap (n.)).
Later "dangling strip of cloth or ribbon used as an ornament in dress," "strip attached to a document to hold a seal" (both early 15c.), and with a general meaning "tag, sticker, slip of paper" (1670s). Meaning "circular piece of paper in the center of a gramophone record" (1907), containing information about the recorded music, led to meaning "a recording company" (1947).
"to affix a label to," c.1600, see label (n.); figurative sense of "to categorize" is from 1853. Related: Labeled; labeling; labelled; labelling.