proposed etymology for "Indian"

Harrold Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 16 02:43:41 UTC 2005

Isn't it the case that Columbus thought that he had reached India and
not some "new world"? For me, the "mystery" is why "indios" and not
"indianos." Probably has something to do with the morphology of


On Oct 15, 2005, at 7:55 PM, James A. Landau wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "James A. Landau" <JJJRLandau at AOL.COM>
> Subject:      proposed etymology for "Indian"
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> --------
> Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji) "One thing Columbus didn't do" Philadelphia
> Inquirer Monday, October 10, 2005, page A11 column 4
> <quote>
>     So whence did this word _Indian_ derive?  The  Spanish friars who
> accompanied the Italian navigator Columbus to the land he  called "the
> new world",
> although it was a world old to the indigenous people,  were so
> enamored of the
> total trust and innocence of the inhabitants that in  Spanish they
> called them
> _Los Nin~os in [sic] Dios_, The children of God.   This was, of
> course, soon
> shortened to _Indios_.
>      And even today, throughout South and Central  America, the
> indigenous
> people are still called "Indios."  As the European  cultures bumped
> into each
> other in North America the name again changed to  "Indian" in America
> [sic] and
> Canada.
> </quote>
> I never heard this etymology before and I am skeptical.  For one
> thing, in
> present-day Spanish the preposition corresponding to English "in" is
> "en", and
> as far as I know this was true in Columbus's day.  Hence by the  above
> argument, the name should be "Endios"
>      - James A. Landau

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