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.
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.