Friday, 20 November 2009


Wikipedia says of cotton: 'The name derives from the Arabic (al) qutn قُطْن , which began to be used circa 1400.' But that can't be right, for here's Pliny the Elder well over a millennium earlier than that: 'ferunt mali cotonei amplitudine cucurbitas, quae maturitate ruptae ostendunt lanuginis pilas, ex quibus vestes pretioso linteo faciunt' [XII: 10 (21)]. Lewis and Short have cotonea, 'a plant, wallwort, comfrey, black briony', and cotinus 'a shrub', which are presumably unconnected with the Arabic.

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