Orange origin

Cecil’s column

Cecil did take the etymology most of the way back. But before it was Sanskrit, it originated from Tamil.

The word orange can be traced back through French une orange, Spanish naranja, Arabic nâranj, Persian nârang, and Sanskrit nâranga to the Tamil root word nâru- ‘to be fragrant, to sprout up’. However, the present-day Tamil word for orange is ârañcu. Borrowed back from English—it’s gone full circle!

Orange you glad I told you that?

MODERATOR NOTE: Please be aware, this thread is from April 2000, until revived in Post #6 on Feb 7, 2014.

Not to be a party pooper, but on what basis do you assert that the Sanskrit word naranga is derived from the Tamil word naru-, as opposed to the other likely possibility: that both words derive from the same proto-Sanskrit word?

Doug (the root curious)

The matter doesn’t seem to be quite as clear-cut with respect to the Tamil origin of naranga as ishmintingas asserts. Monier-Williams’s Sanskrit-English Dictionary mentions the synonym naga-ranga, “Naga [serpent]-color”, for naranga, but this looks to me like an artificial etymology. The entry under “orange” in Hobson-Jobson (ed. Crooke-Yule-Burnell) contains the following comment:

On the one hand, it seems odd that the original name of a plant native to the extreme north of India should be Dravidian (belonging to the language family that includes Tamil), since Dravidian languages are now concentrated mostly in Southern India; on the other hand, there is evidence that Dravidian languages were more widespread in northern India before (and during the early part of) the spread of Indo-Iranian peoples in that region. On the other hand, the actual attested (if it is attested) Tamil term for orange does not seem very close to naranga; on the other hand, if naranga originated in an Indo-Iranian language from a proto-Indo-European root, we’d expect to see cognates of that root in other Indo-European languages and other derivatives of it in Sanskrit, which apparently we don’t. I’ve run out of hands and am still not convinced one way or the other; unless ishmintingas has some more current evidence supporting the naru- derivation, I think we may have to say that the jury’s still out.


SDMB: where we can make an arcane discussion out of anything.

Because Tamil and Sanskrit do not both derive from proto-Sanskrit. Sanskrit is Indo-European, and Tamil is Dravidian.


But m, I think that Doug’s point is that since we’re not seeing a standard root->derivative etymological relationship here, we’re guessing at some kind of linguistic borrowing from one language family by the other. Why should the transmission of some original word related to “orange” not have gone from Sanskrit to Tamil instead of from Tamil to Sanskrit? Contrary to what ishmintingas asserted, I don’t see any conclusive evidence that the Tamil naru- predates the Sanskrit naranga, or even that the two forms are definitely related linguistically. Does anybody have some new data?


all right, I will get back to work now

‘Naarrangaai’ is the Tamil name for the wild citrus variant from old times from Sangam literature. ‘Naaru’ means fragrance,smell in Tamil.
Any body can verify both these words from any standard Tamil dictionary.
I hope its clear now.

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, senthilas, we’re glad you found us.

For everyone else: Please note this thread is from April 2000, until revived on Feb 7, 2014, by the prior post. It’s no big deal, not a problem, I just want people to be alerted and not try to have conversations with posters who may be lonnng gone. Or not remember what they wrote 14 years ago.

Off-topic, but I’m curious: did including poster names in all posts get instituted sometime between 1:18AM and 9:51AM on April 11, 2000, or is the lack of a name on the OP due to some other reason?

My fuzzy memory: there was a change of system back when, and somehow usernames got dropped. I’m not sure why there’s a diff between 12 AM and 9 AM, but I’ll ask someone with a better memory of these technical glitches to clear it up.

That was just after the Board software changed from UBB to vBulletin.

I can’t explain the thread in question as there are threads available before that date that were started by posters who have names attached.

We didn’t start out on the vBulletin board system; we had something else first. When we converted to vBulletin the oldest posts in the system carried over without the screen names.

Couldn’t do anything about it hthen; can’t do anything about it now neither.