1570s, "likeness made to scale; architect's set of designs," from Middle French modelle (16c., Modern French modèle), from Italian modello "a model, mold," from Vulgar Latin *modellus, from Latin modulus "a small measure, standard," diminutive of modus "manner, measure" (see mode (n.1)).
Sense of "thing or person to be imitated" is 1630s. Meaning "motor vehicle of a particular design" is from 1900 (e.g. Model T, 1908; Ford's other early models included C, F, and B). Sense of "artist's model" is first recorded 1690s; that of "fashion model" is from 1904. German, Swedish modell, Dutch, Danish model are from French or Italian.