The word cigarette first started cropping up in American English in the 1830s and 1840s, with the first attestations being loanwords from people who visited France. That's a diminutive of the French noun cigare, which was in turn borrowed in the late eighteenth century from our word cigar. Going back further, cigar seems to have been taken in the 1730s from Spanish cigarro (still with the same definition), and here it gets interesting. Some sources say cigarro is from the Mayan word sik, meaning "tobacco", but the Oxford English Dictionary disputes this. Others think that it may trace to the earlier Spanish word cigarra, meaning "cicada", due to a perceived resemblance in shape; that it may come from Spanish cigarral, meaning "summer-house"; or that it derives from an Arabic word meaning "little house". No matter what, that's fascinating!
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.