Adventures in Etymology – Bandana

In this Adventure we’re unwrapping the origins of the word bandana.

Bad to the Bone

A bandana [bænˈdæn.ə] is:

  • A large kerchief, usually colourful and used either as headgear or as a handkerchief, neckerchief, bikini, or sweatband.
  • A style of calico printing.

It comes from Hindi बन्धन (bandhan – the act of binding, a bond), from Sanskrit बध्नाति (badhnāti – to bind, tether), from Proto-Indo-Iranian *bʰadʰnáHti, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰn̥dʰ-néh₂-ti (to bind, tie), from bʰendʰ- (to bind, bond) [source].

Words from the same PIE roots include band, bandage, bend, bind, bond, bonnet, bundle, funicular, tulip and turban in English, and Bund (alliance, federation, league) in German [source].

Words from the same roots, via Proto-Celtic *bennā, include ben (cart, wagon) in Welsh, buinne (circlet, bracelet, wickerwork) in Irish, benna (a kind of carriage) in Latin, benne (bin, skip, dump truck, barrow, cable car) in French, bin in English, and benna (bucket, grab) in Italian [source].

Incidentally, before I discovered the origins of the word bandana, I would have guessed that it came from Spanish, and was possibly borrowed from an indigenous language of the Americas, like barbecue, canoe, hammock, tuna and papaya, all of which come from Taíno, an Arawakan language that was spoken across the Caribbean [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

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