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March 27, 2004

Chain reaction

Word History of Orange according to dictionary.com:Oranges imported to China from the United States reflect a journey come full circle, for the orange had worked its way westward for centuries, originating in China, then being introduced to India, and traveling on to the Middle East, into Europe, and finally to the New World. The history of the word orange keeps step with this journey only part of the way.

The word is possibly ultimately from Dravidian, a family of languages spoken in southern India and northern Sri Lanka. The Dravidian word or words were adopted into the Indo-European language Sanskrit with the form nraga. As the fruit passed westward, so did the word, as evidenced by Persian nrang and Arabic nranj. Arabs brought the first oranges to Spain, and the fruit rapidly spread throughout Europe.

The important word for the development of our term is Old Italian melarancio, derived from mela, "fruit," and arancio, "orange tree," from Arabic nranj. Old Italian melarancio was translated into Old French as pume orenge, the o replacing the a because of the influence of the name of the town of Orange, from which oranges reached the northern part of France.

The final stage of the odyssey of the word was its borrowing into English from the Old French form orenge. Our word is first recorded in Middle English in a text probably composed around 1380, a time preceding the arrival of the orange in the New World.

Winner: Mehran Azhar. Sad Afarin!

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