Old English claþ "a cloth, sail, cloth covering, woven or felted material to wrap around one," hence, also, "garment," from Proto-Germanic *kalithaz (cf. Old Frisian klath "cloth," Middle Dutch cleet, Dutch kleed "garment, dress," Middle High German kleit, German Kleid "garment"), of obscure origin. As an adjective from 1590s. The cloth "the clerical profession" is from 17c. in reference to characteristic dress.