Devours Unfortunate Traveller Alive

I must admit that I have some fascination with the word, Anaconda. First of all it just sounds cool. Then there is the terrible movie my friends forced me to watch when I was 13.

Much to my delight when I began reading its origin I simply couldn’t stop. Anything with a confused history and descriptions like ‘crushed the limbs of buffaloes and yoke beasts’ must be shared.

Word of the day: Anaconda

Entered the language in the 18th century. The term anaconda has a confused history. It appears to come from Sinhalese henakandaya, literally ‘lightning-stem,’ which referred to a type of slender green snake. This was anglicized as anaconda by the British naturalist John Ray, who in a List of Indian serpents 1693, described it as a snake which ‘crushed the limbs of buffaloes and yoke beasts.’ And the 1797 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica notes it as a ‘very large and terrible snake [from Ceylon] which often devours the unfortunate traveller alive.’ However, in the early 19th century the French zoologist Francois Marie Daudin for no known reason transferred the name to a large South American snake of the boa family, and that application has stuck.

Source: Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto


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