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Why is "pineapple" in English but "ananas" in all other languages?

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  • 17
    @AndrewLeach I'm so sorry that you don't want to think about such interesting things about your language. – Clever Masha Nov 7 '13 at 12:25
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    It's not that it's not interesting. But it is likely to more on-topic on Linguistics.SE. – Andrew Leach Nov 7 '13 at 12:39
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    In Spanish, it's also called piña. The etymology of "pineapple" and a few other words is nicely illustrated at Europe etymology maps. – Danko Durbić Nov 7 '13 at 15:39
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    Fun fact: In Brazilian portuguese, it's not called an ananas, but rather "abacaxi". – AndyPerfect Nov 7 '13 at 17:29
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    This is on Linguistics.SE already: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/690/… – Bobson Nov 12 '13 at 19:41
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From Wikipedia,

Columbus encountered the pineapple in 1493 on the Leeward island of Guadeloupe. He called it piña de Indes, meaning "pine of the Indians", and brought it back with him to Europe, thus making the pineapple the first bromeliad to leave the New World.

(Actually, this probably isn't quite right ... since piña also means pinecone in Spanish, and since pineapples look nothing like pine trees but quite a bit like pinecones, the meaning was undoubtedly "pinecone of the Indians".)

The question is: why did the English adapt the name pineapple from Spanish (which originally meant pinecone in English) while most European countries eventually adapted the name ananas, which came from the Tupi word nanas (also meaning pineapple).

This is pure speculation, but it may have to do with the fact that there were English colonies in the New World, and these had lots of trade with the Caribbean. If the fruit was called by one name in the Caribbean and a different name in Spain, the English could easily have ended up using the Caribbean name, while the rest of Europe used the Spanish name.

  • Best guess: It was an exotic name for an exotic fruit – Izkata Nov 7 '13 at 19:10
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    By the way, in Spanish they are more commonly called piñas rather than ananás. – Braiam Nov 7 '13 at 23:19
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    I'm Spanish and I want to say that never in my life I have heard this fruit called ananás. It's piña. – MyUserIsThis Jun 5 '15 at 16:54
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When European (English) explorers discovered them they called them pineapples because of their resemblance to pine cones from conifer trees.

The word "pineapple" in English was first recorded in 1398, when it was originally used to describe the reproductive organs of conifer trees (now termed pine cones). The term "pine cone" for the reproductive organ of conifer trees was first recorded in 1694. When European explorers discovered this tropical fruit in the Americas, they called them "pineapples" (first so referenced in 1664 due to resemblance to what is now known as the pine cone).[7][8] In the scientific binomial Ananas comosus, ananas, the original name of the fruit, comes from the Tupi word nanas, meaning "excellent fruit",[9] as recorded by André Thevet in 1555, and comosus, "tufted", refers to the stem of the fruit. Other members of the Ananas genus are often called "pine", as well, in other languages. In Spanish, pineapples are called piña ("pine cone"), or ananá (ananás) (example, the piña colada drink). (Wikipedia)

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    The European explorers who discovered pineapples were undoubtedly Spanish or Portuguese, since they are South American in origin. But since they're also called piña in Spanish, this answer is probably close to correct. – Peter Shor Nov 7 '13 at 12:34
  • @ Peter Shor: I assume that they called them ananas and not pineapples then. The question was about the origin of the English name and not the Spanish or Potuguese. – NamSandStorm Nov 7 '13 at 12:36
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    I don't think we are discussing whether "ananas" or "pineapple" was used first, but where it came from and why the English language does not use "ananas" today. I would say that whoever introduced the ananas to the public first used the term "pineapple" and that is how the word became the accepted name for the fruit. – NamSandStorm Nov 7 '13 at 12:43
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    There are two names used in Spanish for the pineapple, piña (as in piña colada) and ananás. A reasonable hypothesis is that one got translated into English, and the other into most other European languages. – Peter Shor Nov 7 '13 at 13:27
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    You should cite the source of your quote. I see the lack of a citation as the only explanation for having fewer upvotes than a later, similar answer. Otherwise, it is a good and thirst provoking answer. – Canis Lupus Nov 7 '13 at 15:37
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Never believe everything you read on the internet. That list is hand-picked in order to try to prove a point. While it's true that most European languages use some variant of "ananas", it is far from the truth to claim that English is the only one to use "pineapple", or that there is not a lot of variation in the terms that are used.

Here is an incomplete list I compiled from Google Translate:

Language           Word for "pineapple"  Pronunuciation (according to Google)
--------           --------------------  --------------
Afrikaans          pynappel
Armenian           արքայախնձոր         ark’ayakhndzor
Catalan            pinya
Chichewa           chinanazi
Chinese            菠萝                  Bōluó
Filipino           pinya
Frisian            pineappel
Galician           piña
Hausa              abarba
Igbo               afiapulu
Japanese           パイナップル           Painappuru
Khmer              ម្នាស់                  mneasa
Korean             (not allowed by SE)   pain-aepeul
Kurdish            sifir
Lao                ຫມາກນັດ              maknad
Malayalam          പൈനാപ്പിൾ          paināppiḷ
Maori              Tuhinga o mua
Mongolian          хан боргоцой          khan borgotsoi
Myanmar (Burmese)  နာနတ်ပင်           nar naat pain
Portuguese (pt-BR) abacaxi
Sesotho            phaphaenapole
Shona              chinanai
Telugu             పైనాపిల్                Paināpil
Thai               สับปะรด                S̄ạbpard
Vietnamese         dứa
Welsh              pîn-afal
Xhosa              iphayinaphu
Yoruba             ope oyinbo
Zulu               iphayinaphu

So I could just as easily ask

Why is it ananas in French, but pineapple in "all" other languages?

Language           Word for "pineapple"  Pronunuciation (according to Google)
--------           --------------------  --------------
Afrikaans          pynappel
Catalan            pinya
English            pineapple
Filipino           pinya
French             **ananas**
Frisian            pineappel
Galician           piña
Japanese           パイナップル           Painappuru
Korean             (not allowed by SE)   pain-aepeul
Malayalam          പൈനാപ്പിൾ          paināppiḷ
Sesotho            phaphaenapole
Telugu             పైనాపిల్                Paināpil
Welsh              pîn-afal
Xhosa              iphayinaphu
Zulu               iphayinaphu
3

Interestingly several late mentions have both terms

"I was thinking on the man to whom we are in a great measure obliged for the production and culture of the exotic, we were speaking of, in this kingdom; Sir Matthew Decker;the first ananas or pine-apple, that was brought to perfection in England, grew in his garden at Richmond." Bernard de Mandeville: The Fable of Bees (1733)

and Th Baldwin: Short Practical Directions For The Culture Of The Ananas; Or Pine Apple Plant (1813)

There is also the variant anana, eg in Th F Gordon (1831) the History of America: "The Anana, or Pine Apple"

It seems both terms, and to a lesser extent 'anana' might have been current at least in the early part of the 19th century.

protected by tchrist Jul 1 '14 at 0:54

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