1423, from M.Fr. sable (also martre sable "sable martin"), in reference to the mammal or its fur, from O.Fr., from a Gmc. source (cf. M.Du. sabel, M.L.G. sabel, M.H.G. zobel), ultimately from a Slavic source (cf. Rus., Pol., Czech sobol, the name of the animal), "which itself is borrowed from an East-Asiatic language" [Klein].
1352, "black" as a heraldic color, commonly identified with sable (1), but the animal's fur is brown and this may be a different word of unknown origin; it may reflect a medieval custom (unattested) of dyeing sable fur black.