We work with manila folders and manila paper all the time, but have we ever considered why the name of these office supplies sounds like the capital of the Philippines? Turns out that is in fact where it comes from! You see, that characteristic buff, stiff paper comes from manila hemp, from the abacá plant native to Luzon. Thus your manila envelopes were directly named after the capital of the Philippines. But where does Manila, the city name, come from? The answer is the Togalog name Maynila, also describing the metropolis. This in turn is a portmanteau of may (meaning "there is") and nilad (meaning a type of indigo plant, though some discredit this as a myth). Together, this means "there is indigo". Nobody's really sure about nilad, but both words probably come from Proto-Philippine, and, by extension, Austronesian, poorly researched Asian languages that they were.
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.