The word balaclava comes from the October 1854 Battle of Balaklava in the Crimean War, wherein British soldiers stationed in the cold were sent the garments from back home. Before that, they were called Uhlan or Templar caps; this is because the military orders were well known for wearing them. They first recorded mention of balaclavas still wasn't until 1881, though: apparently it was used by former soldiers way after the fact in remembrance of the battle. The town name Balaklava has a disputed origin. It used to be controlled by the Ottomans, who called it Balak-Yuka, which meant "fish's nest". That seems like a pretty solid theory, but it could also be folk etymologized from an Ancient Greek fortress in the area named Palakion. That would be after a Scythian ruler, Palakos.
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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.