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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Where Do the Words 'Cannabis' and 'Marijuana' Come From?


  The hemp plant goes by many, many different names, but 'cannabis sativa' is probably the most scientifcally accurate and 'marijuana' is, without a doubt, the most commonly used slang term for the plant.

   So where did these words come from?

   In his book 'Cannabis: A History' author Martin Booth tells us that the name cannabis sativa actually came from the Swedish 'father of botany' Carolus Linnaeus who named the plant in 1753. Sativa comes from the Latin word for 'cultivated'.

    The word 'cannabis' is broken into two syllabals with the first 'canna' being derived from the ancient Greek word for hemp 'kannabis', which was in-turn derived from the Sanskrit word 'cana'. Many other civilizations had similar words for the plant suggesting that the origins of the name are rooted in antiquity. The second syllabal 'bis' comes from the Hebrew 'bosm', meaning 'aromatic'.

   So cannabis is, literally, the 'cultivated fragrant cane'.

   The word 'marijuana' is a different story. The slang term seems to have very ambiguous origins and no one is exactly certain where it came from. Some say the word came from 'Maria y Juana' (Maria and Jane), a Mexican slang term for a prostitute and other say it came from the Aztec word 'mallihuan'. The only thing that's certain is that the word came from the south and caught on in North America.

1 comment:

  1. "Marihuana" is a made up word designed for the Drug War way back in the 1930's by Harry Aslinger! This word ws used to promote fear of the "blacks" and "mexicans" during Reefer Maddness. Next time you say "Marijuana", remember it is a weapon used to destroy the good name... CANNABIS!

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