Word Origin & History
1530s, from M.Fr. masque "covering to hide or guard the face," from It. maschera, from M.L. masca "mask, specter, nightmare," of uncertain origin, perhaps from Arabic maskhara "buffoon," from sakhira "to ridicule." Or via Prov. mascarar, Catalan mascarar, O.Fr. mascurer "to black (the face)," perhaps
from a Germanic source akin to English mesh
(q.v.). But cf. Occitan mascara "to blacken, darken," derived from mask- "black," which is held to be from a pre-I.E. language, and Old Occitan masco "witch," surviving in dialects; in Beziers it means "dark cloud before the rain comes." [See Walther von Wartburg, "Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch: Eine Darstellung galloromanischen sprachschatzes"] The verb meaning "to wear a mask" is from 1580s; in the extended sense of "disguise," is attested from 1847. Related: Masking. Masking tape first recorded 1936; so called because it is used to block out certain surfaces before painting.