Before the Zika virus emerged from the forests of Brazil to reach international infamy from 2015-2016, it was an obscure virus travelling through various tropical parts of the world. It was first identified in a rhesus monkey's blood sample in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947, and in 1951 it was officially named after the region. Zika is a Lugandan word meaning "become overgrown" or "uncultivated", and that would ultimately be of Proto-Niger-Congo origin, like ebola and dengue. Interestingly, in naming the affliction itself, scientists were debating between Zika disease and Zika fever, but we somehow went ahead and largely decided to call it Zika virus, which doesn't make nearly as much sense if you think about it.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.