The Taino language gave us a surprising number of words (in no particular order, this encompasses cannibal, tobacco, savannah, potato, barbecue, canoe, hammock, and Caribbean) for an indigenous language, but today we look at one in particular: hurricane. Until we borrowed this term, there were already existing names for hurricanes: typhoon, cyclone, even tempest. However, clearly we didn't have enough words for the weather pattern, and Spanish colonizers in America soon began adopting a word they transcribed as hurican from the natives of the Greater Antilles. In truth, it may have sounded more like huracan or even juracan depending on the dialect. Beyond that, it's obscure, but in Quechua and Mayan, hurakan and huranken respectively referred to storm gods, so there must be a common ancestor connecting the Arawakan (Taino) word to the rest. There's a lack of records for concrete evidence here, but just the hints are fascinating.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd