The origin of the rice dish biryani is disputed by scholars. It may have originated in Northern India from Mughal influences, in the south with a modification of a pilaf brought over by Arab traders. We do know a bit about the word, though: it was first used in a cookbook in 1932 and was borrowed directly from Hindi. Beyond that, there are two theories. It either comes from the Persian word biryan, meaning "fried" or "roasted" (as the Oxford English Dictionary suggests) or from birinj, which was Persian for "rice". Either way, it's ultimately of Indo-European origin, and there aren't further reconstructions. According to Google NGram Viewer, usage of the word biryani really got popular in the US in the 1980s, and Google Trends only shows search frequency increasing as well.
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.