When the word jungle was first used in English in 1776, it referred exclusively to the swampy areas at the base of the Himalaya mountains. However, by 1849, the term was extended to any sort of place with overgrown vegetation. Interestingly enough, the word comes from the Hindi and Marathi noun jangal, which meant "desert"! That later developed a sense of "wasteland" and came to be extended to marshlands like the ones the British encountered in India, with the meaning gradually changing to be more associated with densely packed forests. Jangal comes from Sanskrit jangala, meaning "arid", and that has unknown, possibly Dravidian origins. The phrase jungle gym is from a company that was established in 1921 and jungle fever in reference to the disease is from 1803.
7/24/2021 02:17:48 am
Hmmm... A native Hindi Speaker, who knows Sanskrit. Jangala, does refer to an arid area, comparable to grasslands in Sanskrit. However, in Hindi, jangala refers to a forest only. Not a desert. Not even the slightest.
7/25/2021 02:17:07 am
The Oxford English Dictionary, Etymonline, and Wiktionary all say it meant "desert" in Hindi. Perhaps that's an old meaning of the word that's no longer around?
7/25/2021 08:05:59 am
Ok, at least according to me, they aren't the best place to check out meanings for Sanskrit words, though they may be very good for English words and their etymology. I checked with Vaman Apte's Sanskrit English Dictionary (1890). It defines जङ्गल (jangala) as waste, wasteland, secluded or unfrequented place, a forest, a desert. So, desert is a valid meaning of the word in Sanskrit and may have carried on into Hindi/Marathi with the same meaning. But it is to be noted that it wasn't the only meaning of the word. As far as I can see, the word covers a broad meaning of "wild place / place with no humans" etc..
11/9/2022 06:00:31 am
Desert… Forest is too wet, cold also, lots of insects biting… In the JUngle are lots of poisonous things lots of rain. The desert isnt what you think. There are many oasis and mountains. The desert is anything but flat or dry. If you study where your going. I live near Moab Utah. <a href='https://wordmaker.info/how-many/deserted.html'>deserted</a>
1/31/2023 02:34:14 pm
There is an interesting explanation for this - as noted in the comment above, it is true that "jangal" only means forest in Hindi. It did mean desert in the precursor to the northern Indic languages, Prakrit, which is where the vowel got shortened from the long one in Sanskrit.
Leave a Reply.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic. This year, I graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government and Linguistics. There, I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society and wrote a thesis on Serbo-Croatian language policy, magna cum laude. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.