William Dampier, a former pirate who became the first to circumnavigate the world three times, reached fame in British naval circles for his 1697 novel A New Voyage Round the World. In it, he mentioned that many sailors around the southeastern coast of India used rafts on top of logs running down the bottom. They called this style of boat a catamaran and, because Dampier's book became so popular,the name stuck in nautical vernacular and eventually seeped into mainstream use. This word is from Tamil kattumaram, which means "tied wood". That in turn was created out of the components kattu, which could be defined as "tie" or "bind", and maram,"tree". These terms likely have ancestors in Old Tamil and Proto-Dravidian (they're not Indo-European). Such an interesting word, and it's all thanks to the diary of a British buccaneer!
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.