In Spain the word plantain is used to refer to the small fruit, known in the rest of the world as banana, guineo or cambur. On the other hand, in Spain the word banana is used to refer to the largest fruit, with less starch, used in the preparation of cooked recipes as a contour of main dishes.
In many other countries, including Anglo-Saxon-speaking countries, the terms are used in reverse: the small fruit is called banana and the large fruit is banana.
Origin of the word platano
Etymologically, the word banana is derived from the Greek “platanos” (πλατανος), and its corresponding Latin version “platanus”. The etymological root of this term refers to the fact of having wide and flat qualities .
Hence, there are two botanical species that share this name, according to the Royal Spanish Academy:
Tree of the banana family, genus Platanus
It has a height of more than 15 meters, and has abundant, wide leaves with a webbed limb, which makes it a shade tree par excellence.
This characteristic has meant that, since ancient times, this tree has been used for ornamental purposes in public plantations.
Its wood is also used in cabinetmaking, given its pinkish hue and medium hardness. The banana tree is present in abundance in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Herbaceous plant of the Musaceae family, genus Musa
Its average height is between 2 and 3 meters, and its crown is made up of broad leaves approximately 2 meters long and 30 centimeters wide.
The banana, as a herbaceous plant, has its origins in Southeast Asia. Today, its fruit is widely consumed worldwide, given its incredible nutritional and culinary properties.
What do both species have in common? Well, basically, its wide and flat leaves. That is why the origin of the multiple use of this word is understood, as far as botany is concerned.
Both specimens are considered “flat trees”, since their use is very common in linear plantations, to decorate surfaces with little inclination and to provide shade in areas of hot climate.
Then comes the semantic breadth in the use of the term, since, in the case of Spain, the fruit of the herbaceous plant of the genus musa is also called banana. That is, the same word is used to designate the plant and its fruit.
As mentioned above, the fruit of this plant is known in other countries as banana.
The etymological origin of this word comes from the Arabic “banānah” (بنانة), which means “fingers”, and is used to refer to each one of the “fingers” of the bunch of the plant.
The use of the term varies depending on the particularities of each country, and it is this characteristic that makes Spanish such a rich and diverse language in essence.
- Banana or Minimal? (2016). La Tribuna Newspaper. Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Recovered from: latribuna.hn.
- Dictionary of the Spanish Language (2017). Banana. Royal Spanish Academy. Recovered from: dle.rae.es.
- Erice, A. (2015). In the name of the banana. Madrid Spain. Recovered from: historiacocina.com.
- Etymology of Plátano (2017). Santiago de Chile, Chile. Recovered from: etimologias.dechile.net.
- Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (2017). Banana (fruit). Recovered from: es.wikipedia.org.