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What is the Origin of Bandit?
So I wondered out loud to a friend when I donned a bandana to comply with mask land civility and was reminded when I looked in the mirror of an old time movie bandit. There was specifically, a cartoon character used to sell Fritolay chips named, “The Frito Bandito.”
I was crest fallen to discover that the cartoon character that made me want to eat chips did not wear a bandana and then crushed the thought in my child’s mind that the bandana might have originated with bandit.

No connection to bandanna, but connected to band, abandon.
-Sandy Word Search

The first use of the term bandito was in 1591 and comes from the Italian and is now a term describing a Mexican armed robber.
As for the term bandana, that does, like band and bandit, have an Aryan origin:
“The word bandana is thought to come from the Hindi word bāṅdhnū, meaning “to tie,” and the garment itself has a history that can be traced back to South Asia and the Middle East in the late 17th century.”
We are dealing here, and also with the term bandit, with the subject of bondage.
One definition reads, “Associated with legal or moral commitment and bondage and imprisonment.” This term seems to have resulted from a convergence of terms for arm bands, collars, shackles and slave bindings with terms for organized men in an age when most organized men were organized as working commodities in an unfree force of abductees and or convicts.
These terms came from various Germanic languages from the 1400s to 1600, a time which traces the rise of poor laws and plantation economics
Source words include bind, band, bond, ultimately from Germanic “band” and from the Middle French bande and French bander, a strip for binding. It may ultimately have the root of bandwa, a Gothic [Germanic] word meaning sign or identifier. In the 1300s it generally meant an organized group of armed men.
Another source identifies, “Old Norse ‘band’ a force to bind, and also confederacy.”
Yet another source says, to “bind or fasten” or “join a company.” Understanding that such joining was rarely voluntary and normally forceable and all maintained by force helps understand the norms of the age.
The sourcing on bandit as a term suggests the following:
An ancient Aryan term for fealty, group identity, confederacy and yes, physical bondage.
Early Medieval Germanic term for men bound together as warriors under a feudal oath or conscripted through forced levy.
In Late Medieval and Early Modern times, as warriors gave way to soldiers and the gunpowder age armies were staffed with abducted men, the binding was external as of chattel.
In Early Modern times collars on domestic animals were called bands, and, as the plantation economy grew out of the poor laws and trafficking in excess population created by enclosure acts, the term was more often associated with bondage than martial brotherhood, with the life of the soldier now more a state of external bondage rather than of an internal brotherhood.
The figure we think of as a bandit was more likely called a rogue, a highwayman or a vagabond in English. As the term came into use as the age of piracy dawned, one wonders if it was simply a no brainer, that a group of escaped slaves or soldiers or mutinous sailors who banded together after breaking out of bondage, naturally embodied the convergence of their slave origins and their criminal warrior aspirations in one term.
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