The Mamluk sultanate (also stylized Mameluk, Mamluq, Mamaluke, Mameluk, and Marmeluk because of how the Arabic was translated) was a medieval caliphate with a weird governmental system where they would import slaves to be soldiers and eventually leaders. Accordingly, the word meant "slave" in Arabic, with a literal translation of "possessed". That's the past participle of malaka ("to possess"), which comes from the Proto-Semitic root m-l-k, meaning "king" (through a connection of "rule"). This also yielded the Hebrew and Arabic words for king, melekh and malik, which is kind of a cool juxtaposition, and mamluk was borrowed by the Portuguese to become mameluco, their word for first generation children of Europeans and Native Americans.
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.