Did you know that meat didn’t always mean “the flesh of warm-blooded animals used for food”?
Nope. The word meat actually comes from the Old English mete, which was used for ANY food or sustenance, including what was fed to animals, and could even mean “a meal.” It came from Proto-Geremanic meti, which then influenced many Germanic languages through the ages in their words for food.
But by around the 1300, the meaning quoted above began to edge out the broader sense, basically as a shortening of “flesh-meat,” which was used before that. By even into the 1400s, vegetables were still called “grene-mete,” and dairy was “white-mete.” We still see that earlier meaning preserved in a few random dishes/items, like sweetmeat and mincemeat.
Dark meat and light/white meat became popular distinctions when talking about fowl in the 19th century. Meatloaf is first recorded in 1876.