Antedating of "Tsunami"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Feb 28 12:48:03 UTC 2010

Newspaperarchive has a slightly earlier occurrence of "tsunami":

Semi-Weekly Cedar Falls Gazette, The - July 28, 1896, Cedar Falls, Iowa

...rescuers were terri wihile in the latter 2655 out of 3747 were killed it was shortly before 8 oclock on the night of monday june 15 that dwellers near the coast heard strange sound that came out from the sea swelling on the calm evening air the dreaded tsunami sea wave was not altogethernewto some of those who were su soon to become its victims but it is asserted that tha people were exceedingly slow to realize the immensity of the danger that threat ened them tsunami cried terror stricken fisherman and tsunami pass ed the echoing wail...

The usage here is not entirely naturalized into English.

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of victor steinbok [aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Saturday, February 27, 2010 11:42 PM
Subject: Re: *tsunamus

Interesting that the OED missed such a trivial publication as National
Geographic for Sept. 1896 for antedating tsunami. In fact, the entire
cover story is devoted to it (specifically to one of June 15, 1896,
pp. 285-9). The Atlantic was not to be outdone, placing a story, A
Living God, in the Dec. 1896 issue of the Monthly (pp. 833-41).

There is also a Tsunami entry in the Helpburn's
Japanese-English/English-Japanese Dictionary, 2nd/4th ed., 1872/1888,
p. 567/695 (see also entry on p. /166)

> TSUNAMI, [], n., A large waves that rolls over and inundates the land.
[There is also a verb that shares the same first two characters.]

> HISSARAE, -RU, [], t.v., to take all away; to sweep away, to make a clean sweep: tsunami /wa ie kua wo/ --, the huge wave swept away the house and godown [added in 4th ed.: /kane wo -- te nigeru/].

Note, however, that 1) this is a dictionary and the words are in
Japanese, not adopted in English, and 2) the 2nd edition was published
in Shanghai by the American Presbyterian Mission, before it was picked
up by international publishers; the 4th and subsequent editions (not
sure about 3rd) were published by Z.P. Maruya, Tokyo, Kelly & Walsh,
Yokohama/Shanghai/Singapore, and Trubner & Co in London.

The same definition is in Ichikawa's New Pocket Dictionary, also from
1888 (Yokohama).

So the actual antedating is only by one year, but there might be more
a bit earlier--just not on GB (majority of hits on {tsunami pre-1900}
were false--about half were false dates and half bad OCR, especially
the ones to the first half of the XIXth century and those in other
European languages).


PS: Sorry about the links--I am on a computer where no URL shortening
is set up, so I am skipping it. The titles should be easy to find.

On Sat, Feb 27, 2010 at 8:35 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> At 6:34 PM -0500 2/27/10, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>One of Honolulu's news anchors apologized on CNN for having said "tidal
>>wave" when he meant "tsunami." He also emphasized that "tsunami" is
>>Perhaps someone complained about apparent subject-verb discord.
> No, it's not Latin, it's Italian:  Would you like to much on a tasty
> panino while you watch the tsunamo?  Of course in the original
> Italian it was "zunamo", but it is a loan word after all.
> LH

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