Maroon – The chestnuts or the slaves?

Maroon is a homophone (a word with two different meanings), one being the reddish-brown colour, the other being to leave someone on an island. I love these little language quirks and whenever I come across them I can’t help but wonder if the two words have evolved separately or if they both come from the same root words and split off somewhere down the etymological tree.

Maroon the colour came into the English language by way of French, the French word ‘marron’ was a word used to describe the colour of chestnuts in the late 1700s (which I think is fascinating because to my mind chestnut and maroon are 2 different colours). The French got the word from the Greek ‘maroan’ which meant the same thing.

The use of the word maroon to mean to maroon someone on an island was first used in this context in 1724 and was an application of the word which had previously been used to mean ‘to be lost in the wild’. It comes from the word ‘maron’ which was a term used to describe fugitive black slaves who hid in the jungle.

So there is no connection at all. Just a fun coincidence.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s