Mail or chain mail is a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh.
The word chainmail is of relatively recent coinage, having been in use only since the 18th century; prior to this it was referred to simply as mail.
The word itself refers to the armour material, not the garment made from it.
Mail was a highly successful type of armor and was used by nearly every metalworking culture in North Africa, Europe, and Asia. Its use spans from around 300 BC to the dawn of the 20th century and beyond, a period of over 2500 years.
Today it remains in limited use in stab vests and a number of other applications. It is also used in reenactments, decorative uses and jewelry.
In the Dark Ages coin mail was often referred to as "ring maille" to distinguish it from other types of mail, such as lamellar and splinted mail. In the Middle Ages scale mail died out, but chain mail remained, and people called it "maille" or "mayle", which is derived from Latin macula, or "mesh in a net". As with heraldry, the language of armour is French, and chain mail is no exception. The word maille comes from the French, meaning mesh or net. In the Victorian period people were beginning to become interested with the Middle Ages, and the Gothic revival started. Because people thought that "maille" was made from chains it took on the name of chain mail.