pastrami is a recent arrival in the English language; Mariani (1994) gives 1936 as the first appearance in print. However, the product has a long history. The name probably derives through Yiddish from Romanian or Armenian pastrama, a type of wind-dried beef. Lesley Chamberlain (1989) says that:
Wind-dried beef, pastrama, of Armenian origin, was observed to be a much-loved food among the poor [of Romania]. A nineteenth century traveller described it as ‘thin, black, leather-like pieces of meat dried and browned in the sun, and with salt and squashed flies’.