Alan H. Hartley ahartley at D.UMN.EDU
Thu Feb 17 22:48:16 UTC 2005

Who knew there was an English cognate?!



[< MERRY a. + WING n. (see the folk etymology reported in quot. 1683),
after Portuguese maruim (also in forms marigüi (1560), maringuim, meruí,
meruim, etc.) < Tupi mari'wi or a related form. Cf. French maringouin
(1614; 1566 in Middle French as maringon, 1609 as marigoin) and

     A biting midge, gnat, or mosquito found in the Caribbean, esp. in
Jamaica and Barbados.

   1657 R. LIGON True Hist. Barbados 62 And next to them [sc. Musketos]
Meriwings, and they are of so small a you can hardly discern
them, but by the noise of their wings..: Where they sting there will
rise a little knob, as big as a pease. 1671 J. OGILBY America 340 In
some parts of the Countrey [in Jamaica] there are also a sort of
stinging Flies, call'd Muschilli and Merrywings. 1683 Present State
Jamaica 20 Divers sorts of Flies, called Mery-wings, from their Noise;
Mutquettoes, from their Littleness; Gallinippors, from their Biting.
1706 Phillips's New World of Words (ed. 6), Merry-wings, a sort of Fly,
very troublesome in the Night, in the Island of Barbadoes. 1750 G.
HUGHES Nat. Hist. Barbados 87 The a very minute Fly...
They seem to be exactly of the same Species with the Gnat in England.
1839 Jamaica Almanack 38 The Lady and Gentleman Merrywings (Maringouin)
as the Windward Islanders call the Gnat. 1961 F. G. CASSIDY Jamaica Talk
xiii. 291 Their [sc. mosquitoes'] earliest name was merrywings... The
word has long been out of use in Jamaica, but still means a midge in


Dauzat's etym. dict. gives the same dates for the Fr. varr. and says the
word comes from Tupi-Guarani (Brazil) mbarigui.



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