This is a word from the Middle Ages, with an uncertain origin. The old Gothic maitan meant to hew, or cut, and it is supposed the word carried that general meaning through Medieval Latin, English, German, and in the Scandinavian languages. If at first it was used only of a stone-cutter, it came later to mean a builder. Why the Operatives were called “Freemasons” is still an unsolved puzzle; the most likely view is that they were a society of builders free to move from one place to another in contrast to the gild Masons who were confined in their labors to one community. In our Fraternity a Mason is a builder of manhood and brotherhood.
- Source: 100 Words in Masonry