armadillo

The armadillo is an American mammal of the order Cingulata. There are a number of species of armadillo, of which the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is perhaps the most familiar to English speakers. That species is found in South and Central America and in the southeastern United States, as far west as Texas and as far north as Nebraska, and is the only species of armadillo common to the United States.

Armadillo has a straightforward etymology. Its name comes from its keratinous skin that forms a leathery, armored carapace about its head, upper body, and tail.  The word is a borrowing from Spanish, armado (“armored,” past participle of armar) + -illo (diminutive suffix). So an armadillo is literally a “little armored one.”

The word first appears in Spanish in Nicolas Monardes 1574 Historia Medicinal de las Cosas Que se Traen de Nuestras Indias Occidentales (Medical study of the products imported from our West Indian possessions). That work was translated into English three years later by John Frampton, which is the first known use of the word in English:

He is called the Armadillo, that is to saie a beaste armed.


Source:

Oxford English Dictionary, third edition, March 2016, s. v. armadillo, n.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, 2011.

[Discuss this post]

Powered by ExpressionEngine
Copyright 1997-2017, by David Wilton