Origin of the word: Banana

We find ourselves reading and/or researching different things that affect us down here in the tropics so I decided that it might be a good idea to share some of the information we find as these little tidbits are interesting in their own right even if you don’t live close to the equator.

I am currently reading “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World” by Dan Koeppel. It is a fairly recent book that I picked up when were in Houston this past summer. One of the interesting items he found in doing his research for this book is that to follow the journey of the banana it is much easier for archeologists, historians, biologists and authors to work with linguists. Why? Because it was easier to trace the words that each culture used to mean Banana that it is to trace the fruit itself.

The words used in the far east to mean banana are very different than the word we use today. The words used in Hebrew, Latin and many other languages are also quite different than we use today. The word that we use today, Banana, has its origin in the Arabic word banan. Banan translates into English as “finger.”

Bananas are harvested from the plant as a rack. This rack is then separated into hands. The bunch of bananas you buy in the grocery store are a hand of bananas. The individual fruits are the “finger” of the plant. Thus the Arabic word for finger has come to be our word for this delicious fruit.

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