One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1(A) A thin, usually patterned silk or cotton fabric, of a type originally imported from India; a quantity of this (frequently in plural, sometimes treated as singular). Now historical. (b) A piece of this fabric, typically used as a handkerchief (also more fully "rumal handkerchief") or a head-covering.
2The length of cloth used by Indian Thugs to strangle their victims.
Early 17th century; earliest use found in Richard Cocks (bap. 1565, d. 1624), merchant and East India Company servant. From Urdu rūmāl, rumāl and its etymon Persian rūmāl from rū face + -māl (in compounds) wiping, rubbing (from mālīdan to wipe, rub; of uncertain origin).
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