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1883, from French rastaquouère, rastacouère (19c.) "social intruder, upstart" (especially one of exaggerated manners and dress, from a Mediterranean or South American country), thus "dashing but untrustworthy foreigner." Short form rasta attested from 1905. According to French sources, the word is from South American Spanish rastacuero "upstart," from arrastrar "to drag, pull, tow, trail along the ground" + cuero "leather." Arrastrar is said to be from Spanish rastro "rake," from Latin rastrum (see raster), while cuero is from Latin corium (see corium).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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