- \ \  The word arsenal has a complicated history, stretching back through Italian to Arabic. The Arabic original was dāras- sinā‘ah, literally ‘house of the manufacture’.\ \ This seems to have been borrowed into Venetian Italian, somehow losing its initial d, as arzaná, and been applied specifically to the large naval dockyard in Venice (which in the 15th century was the leading naval power in the Mediterranean). The dockyard is known to this day as the Arzenale, showing the subsequent addition of the -al ending. English acquired the word either from Italian or from French arsenal, and at first used it only for dockyards (‘making the Arsenal at Athens, able to receive 1000 ships’, Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s Natural history 1601); but by the end of the 16th century it was coming into more general use as a ‘military storehouse’. The English soccer club Arsenal gets its name from its original home in Woolwich, south London, where there used to be a British government arsenal.
Word origins - 2ed. J. Ayto. 2005.