A woman sips from a coconut on a beach in Acapulco, Mexico, in a 1952 photo by Earl Leaf. How the fruit acquired its name in English is a curious tale. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
A woman sips from a coconut on a beach in Acapulco, Mexico, in a 1952 photo by Earl Leaf. How the fruit acquired its name in English is a curious tale. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Lisa Lim
Opinion

Opinion

Language Matters by Lisa Lim

The coconut, and the curious origins of the word in English – derived from the name for an Iberian ghost-monster that ate disobedient children

  • Westerners usually adopted local names for fruits new to them, but to Portuguese in India coconuts, with their three holes, reminded them of the human face
  • They called them ‘coco’ after their word for head – derived from el Coco the mythical monster that ate naughty children. The English took ‘coco’ and added nut

A woman sips from a coconut on a beach in Acapulco, Mexico, in a 1952 photo by Earl Leaf. How the fruit acquired its name in English is a curious tale. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
A woman sips from a coconut on a beach in Acapulco, Mexico, in a 1952 photo by Earl Leaf. How the fruit acquired its name in English is a curious tale. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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