Most people know that the banana originated from Africa, but not many know how it came to be what it is called today. This tropical fruit was considered quite exotic in early times, so the Romans decided to just call it a fig, because of their apparently uncanny resemblance. This caught on in premedieval France, where they called it a figue du paradis. However, after the collapse of Rome, trade diminished and Europe didn't see much of the banana for a while, letting it fade from their memories, for the most part. Meanwhile, in Asia, Arab traders were beginning to exchange goods with Africa, and they eventually came into contact with the banana. These wacky merchants began to call it after their word for finger or toe, banana, most likely because of its protrusion-like appearance. This word spread into Africa, and was picked up by the Portuguese and Spanish when they invaded the Congo area, and then spread to English when the banana arrived in 1633. So next time you feel an urge to eat a toe, peel it first.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior 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.