The island of Madagascar was first encountered by Europeans when the Portuguese explorer Diego Diaz found it and named it St. Lawrence in the year 1500. Three decades later, French navigators Jean and Raoul Parmentier also came across it and, unaware of Diaz's name, decided that it was the same island as one Marco Polo called Madeigascar in his travelogues. Polo, however, was likely writing about the Comoros archipelago, and got that name because he mistranslated a label on an Arabic map that was actually referring to Mogadishu, a city on the coast of Somalia. Prior to Diaz and the Parmentiers, there was no indigenous name for the island, and Madeigascar ended up being the one that stuck (just changing to have all a's, of course). Finally, Mogadishu comes from an Arabic word meaning "holy" or "seat of the Shah".
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.