The word cougar was first attested in the English language in Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith's 1774 edition of An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature, in which he described it as "an animal of America, which is usually called the Red Tiger". Goldsmith took this word from the French, who described it as a couguar, and that was taken from Portuguese çućuarana, which is further thought to be from a Brazilian language. The prevailing theory is that it would derive from the Tupi word susuarana, which meant "false deer", but nobody's sure. After that complicated series of linguistic borrowings, cougar seeped into our vernacular with a new meaning of "older women who seek younger male romantic partners" around the year 2002 from Canadian slang, in allusion to the predatory behavior of the women.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior 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.