The word mango hints at an exotic origin, and I first thought Africa when I came across it (silly me! So unknowledgeable about the history of the mango!). Turns out the word's history is closely correlated to the fruit's history. The mango first grew in South Asia, and was cultivated by Dravidian Ainu speakers, who called it ma kay, which roughly meant "an uncultivated fruit". This word passed into the Tamil language (arguably the most important Dravidian tongue) as mankay, still with the same definition. In the fifteenth century, Malay sailors dominated the Indian Ocean, trading from the South China sea to the shores of the Arabian peninsula. Therefore, mankay passed into the Malay language as mangga, quite a mangling, but they didn't care, since they were enjoying their mangoes. In the sixteenth century, Portugese sailors were the first to trade with Southeast Asia, where they picked up the mango and the local word for it, changing it slightly to manga. This soon spread to England as an intriguing exotic fruit with an intriguing exotic name: the mango.
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