The word safari was introduced into English in the 1860s, and was recognized as a word in the 1890s. Defined specifically as an expedition to see or hunt wild animals, the term comes from an identical-sounding Swahili word, which meant "journey". Mere associations with Africa caused the new definition to arise later. The Swahili word is thought to come from the Arabic word safara, meaning "travel", a verb rather than the previous noun (quite a lot of Swahili words come from Arabic, because of all the trade in East Africa). Safara comes from the root s-f-r, which had connotations of traveling and likely derives from Proto-Semitic, and then Afro-Asiatic. Safaris seem to be popular; usage has steadily increased since its introduction, albeit Google Trends shows it kind of steady in search usage.
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.