The word "melungeon"

Does anyone know the origin of the word “melungeon”? I heard once that it mean “abandoned by God” but I’m not sure, it was a while ago. Does the word have any other use other than to describe the people of the South Eastern USA?


It is thought that it comes from meluncan, which means (IIRC) “cursed soul”, in Turkish, which is about the same thing as “abandoned by God”, I reckon.

It is also thought thgat it comes from the French word melange.

I always assumed it came from Italian dialect melangiani ‘eggplant’, used as slang for dark-skinned people.

\Me*lun"geon, n. [Cf. F. m['e]langer to mix, m['e]lange a mixture.] One of a mixed white and Indian people living in parts of Tennessee and the Carolinas. They are descendants of early intermixtures of white settlers with natives. In North Carolina the Croatan Indians, regarded as descended from Raleigh’s lost colony of Croatan, formerly classed with negroes, are now legally recognized as distinct.

I only understood this word to mean a mixed-race person. According to my dictionary, it comes from the French mélangé, mixed.

That was my understanding, that the word was of Turkish or perhaps Moorish derivation. Ta!


Quick googling of “meluncan” turned up an academic paper on these people at:

The author thinks of the melucan/melungeon people as being Turkish in origin.

The current thinking among etymologist is that the origin of the word is still unknown and in dispute.

There is NO DOUBT that it refers to :

This from the OED.

Their earliest cite in print is

I personally doubt the Turkish association.

Douglas Wilson, a member of the American Dialect Society, and a valued contributor to the Mailing List there, posits this:

That was from He was responding to my bringing this up from a previous post about this to the SDMB.
Ignore Doug at your peril. He’s solved many a mysterious word question. He thinks out of the box. And that sometimes is the key.

Here’s an article that has some breakdown of DNA for some Melungeons. Interesting. There’s a Middle Eastern component, as suspected, but not so much Native American or African.

That actually sounds like a pretty good guess. It seems like just the way some backwoodsmen might invent a name for dark-skinned mountaineers of unknown ancestry.

While “melange” sounds similar to “Melungeon,” it’s hard to imagine the steps by which the former might have evolved into the latter.