One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A head-cloth believed to display the impression of Christ's face, venerated especially by the Eastern Orthodox Church; an image of Christ representing or reproducing this.
Early 20th century. From Byzantine Greek μανδύλιον, μανδίλιον, μαντίλιον cloth, hand-towel, handkerchief, tablecloth, especially in phrase τὸ ἅγιον μανδήλιον ‘the holy towel’ from classical Latin mantēlium hand-towel, napkin, variant (probably as inferred singular after mantēlia, plural) of mantēle (also mantēlum), perhaps cognate with Umbrian mantrahklu, and probably originally a compound of the Italic bases of manus hand + tergere to wipe.
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