late 13c., gingerbrar, from Old French ginginbrat "ginger preserve," from Medieval Latin gingimbratus "gingered," from gingiber (see ginger). The ending changed by folk etymology to -brede "bread," a formation attested by mid-14c. Originally "preserved ginger," the meaning "a kind of spiced cake" is from 15c. Figurative use, "showy, insubstantial" is from c.1600. Sense of "fussy decoration on a house" is first recorded 1757; gingerbread-work (1748) was a sailor's term for carved decoration on a ship.