A cotton plantation near Memphis, in the US, circa 1900.
Photo: Getty Images
A cotton plantation near Memphis, in the US, circa 1900. Photo: Getty Images
Lisa Lim
Opinion

Opinion

Language Matters by Lisa Lim

Where does the word ‘cotton’ come from, and how did it get its forced labour connotations?

  • The word entered English through Spanish-Arabic when cotton production spread to the Iberian Peninsula in the late AD600s
  • ‘Cotton-picking’ originated in the US in the 1700s – and now carries racist connotations in reference to African slaves on cotton plantations

A cotton plantation near Memphis, in the US, circa 1900.
Photo: Getty Images
A cotton plantation near Memphis, in the US, circa 1900. Photo: Getty Images
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