c.1440, "funnel-shaped net for catching birds," from M.Fr. tonnelle
"net," or tonel
"cask," dim. of O.Fr. tonne
"tun, cask for liquids," possibly from the same source as O.E. tunne
). Sense of "tube, pipe" (1545) developed in Eng. and led to sense of "underground passage," which is first attested 1765, about five years after the first modern tunnel was built (on the Grand Trunk Canal in England). This sense subsequently has been borrowed into Mod.Fr. (1878). The earlier native word for this was mine
. Meaning "burrow of an animal" is from 1873. The verb meaning "excavate underground" is first attested 1795. Tunnel vision
first recorded 1949. The fig. phrase light at the end of the tunnel
is attested from 1922.