Tapioca, the kind of starch that's extracted from cassava and is best known for being in bubble tea, was originally endemic to northern Brazil. It was encountered by the Portuguese around the turn of the sixteenth century, who traded it around until the balls were invented in southeast Asia and eventually popularized abroad. The word for the foodstuff, first used in English in the 1640s, was borrowed from the Tupí word tipioca, which specifically referred to the juice of a cassava plant. That literally meant "to squeeze out dregs", coming from the words tipi, meaning "dregs" (also can be interpreted as "residue" or "sediment"), and oka, "to squeeze out". The word cassava was also borrowed from Brazil through Portuguese, in this case from the Taíno term kasabi, still with the same definition.
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.