Though the USA's "melting pot" narrative is in dispute, the English language's “melting pot” description is pretty darned irrefutable. One of the countless languages that have contributed to English is Sanskrit (from the region we now call northern India). Here is a tiny fraction of Sanskrit’s contributions to English.
The mynah bird got its English name in 1769 through Hindi from a Sanskrit word meaning delightful or joyful.
Some time around 1839 the Sanskrit word loptram, meaning stolen property or booty, made its way through Hindi & Anglo-Indian to become the English word loot.
It’s very likely that the Sanskrit word drona-m, meaning wooden trough, morphed its way through Hindi to become the English word dinghy. Dinghy joined English in 1810.
Our English word bandana appeared in 1752 from bodhnati, a Sanskrit verb meaning to bind. To get to English it passed through Hindi.
It’s likely the Sanskrit word kandha, or piece of cane sugar showed up in English in the late 1200s as candy. On the way to English it traveled through Persian, Arabic & Old French.
The Sanskrit word for twisted or matted hair was juta-s, which showed up in English as jute in 1746 after a trip through Bengali.
The board game Parcheesi came from the Sanskrit number twenty-five, (panca vinsati-s), which moved through Hindi to arrive in English in 1800.
The Sanskrit word sramana-s, meaning Buddhist ascetic, passed through Prakrit, Chinese, Tungus, and German to become the English word shaman. When? The 1690s.
It’s very likely the verb shampoo, which showed up in English in 1762 came from the Sanskrit verb meaning pounds or kneads. To get to English it passed through Hindi & Anglo-Indian. In English, shampoo originally meant to massage, & didn’t mean to wash the hair until 1860. And it wasn’t until 1866 that shampoo became a noun.
Since these source words were spoken a long time ago, I’ve chosen to write of Sanskrit in the past tense even though modern Sanskrit is alive and well in many parts of India.
Please click on comments below if you were surprised by any of these etymologies, or have anything else to say.
Big thanks to friend Aaron Keating, for suggesting this week’s topic, & thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Merriam-Webster, Etymonline, & Collins Dictionary, & the OED.
I write for teens & tweens, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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