SABLE, the name of a small quadruped, closely akin to the martens, and known by the zoological name of Mustela zibellina. It is a native of Siberia and famous for its fur. The name appears to be Slavonic in origin, cf. Russian sobol, whence it has been adapted into various languages, cf. Ger. Zobel, Dutch Sabel; the Mod. Fr. zibelline and Med.Lat. zibellina derive from the Ital. form. The Eng. and Med. Lat. sabellum are from the O. Fr. sable or saible (see MARTEN and FUR). " Sable " in English is a rhetorical or poetical synonym .for " black." This comes from the usage in heraldry (first in French) for the colour equivalent to black, represented conventionally by a crosshatching of vertical and horizontal lines. It has usually been assumed that this is an extension of the name of the fur, but sable fur is brown.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)