The word flamingo was first used in a 1589 account of discoveries by the English nation, where it was spelled flemengo. This is similar to the source word, Spanish flamengo, which literally meant "flame-colored". The reasons for the spelling changes were influences from Germanic languages and confusion with the ethnonym Fleming (which, as flamenco in Spanish, could be taken to mean "flamingo" as well). The root of flamengo is the noun flama, meaning "flame", which traces to Latin flamma and eventually Proto-Indo-European bhel, "to shine". The association of flamingoes with fire is not exclusive to Spanish: the Greek genus name phoenicopterus means "blood red-feathered", and in Serbo-Croatian, the bird is called a plamenac, from plamen, "flame".
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.