- table (n.)
- late 12c., "board, slab, plate," from Old French table "board, plank, writing table, picture" (11c.), and late Old English tabele, from West Germanic *tabal (cf. Old High German zabel, German Tafel), both the French and Germanic words from Latin tabula "a board, plank, table," originally "small flat slab or piece" usually for inscriptions or for games, of uncertain origin, related to Umbrian tafle "on the board."
The sense of "piece of furniture with the flat top and legs" first recorded c.1300 (the usual Latin word for this was mensa (see mensa); Old English writers used bord (see board (n.1)). The meaning "arrangement of numbers or other figures for convenience" is recorded from late 14c. (e.g. table of contents, mid-15c.).
Figurative phrase turn the tables (1630s) is from backgammon (in Old and Middle English the game was called tables). Table talk is attested from 1560s, translating Latin colloquia mensalis. To table-hop is first recorded 1956. The adjectival phrase under-the-table "hidden from view" is recorded from 1949; under the table "passed out from excess drinking" is recorded from 1921. Table tennis is recorded from 1887.
- table (v.)
- in parliamentary sense, 1718, originally "to lay on the (speaker's) table for discussion," from table (n.). But in U.S. political jargon it has chiefly the sense of "to postpone indefinitely" (1866). Related: Tabled; tabling.