Etymology
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maize (n.)

1550s, "the grain of Indian corn;" 1580s of the cereal plant of the grass family that produces it, from Cuban Spanish maiz, from Arawakan (Haiti) mahiz, the native name of the plant. In Europe it was formerly also called Turkey corn; like the fowl, this is from mistaken notions of its origin.

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jambalaya (n.)

1849, from Louisiana French, from Provençal jambalaia "stew of rice and fowl," from jamb-, which Anthony Buccini of nyfoodstory.com argues is "is not a native Occitan [word] but rather enters the language first as part of a word borrowed from the Neapolitan dialect of southern Italy, namely, ciambotta, presumably during the late Middle Ages."

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coot (n.)

late 14c., cote, used for various diving water fowl (now limited to Fulica atra and, in North America, F. americana), of uncertain origin. Perhaps from an unrecorded Old English word, or perhaps from Low German (compare Dutch meercoet "lake coot"). Meaning "silly person, fool" is attested from 1766.

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turkey (n.)

1540s, originally "guinea fowl" (Numida meleagris), a bird imported from Madagascar via Turkey, and called guinea fowl when brought by Portuguese traders from West Africa. The larger North American bird (Meleagris gallopavo) was domesticated by the Aztecs, introduced to Spain by conquistadors (1523) and thence to wider Europe. The word turkey first was applied to it in English 1550s because it was identified with or treated as a species of the guinea fowl, and/or because it got to the rest of Europe from Spain by way of North Africa, then under Ottoman (Turkish) rule. Indian corn was originally turkey corn or turkey wheat in English for the same reason.

The Turkish name for it is hindi, literally "Indian," probably influenced by French dinde (c. 1600, contracted from poulet d'inde, literally "chicken from India," Modern French dindon), based on the then-common misconception that the New World was eastern Asia.

After the two birds were distinguished and the names differentiated, turkey was erroneously retained for the American bird, instead of the African. From the same imperfect knowledge and confusion Melagris, the ancient name of the African fowl, was unfortunately adopted by Linnæus as the generic name of the American bird. [OED]

The New World bird itself reputedly reached England by 1524 at the earliest estimate, though a date in the 1530s seems more likely. The wild turkey, the North American form of the bird, was so called from 1610s. By 1575, turkey was becoming the usual main course at an English Christmas. Meaning "inferior show, failure," is 1927 in show business slang, probably from the bird's reputation for stupidity. Meaning "stupid, ineffectual person" is recorded from 1951. Turkey shoot "something easy" is World War II-era, in reference to marksmanship contests where turkeys were tied behind a log with their heads showing as targets. To talk turkey (1824) supposedly comes from an old tale of a Yankee attempting to swindle an Indian in dividing up a turkey and a buzzard as food.

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gizzard (n.)

"stomach of a bird," late 14c., from Old French gisier "entrails, giblets (of a bird)" (13c., Modern French gésier), probably from Vulgar Latin *gicerium, a dissimilation of Latin gigeria (neuter plural) "cooked entrails of a fowl," a delicacy in ancient Rome, from PIE *yekwr- "liver" (see hepatitis). The unetymological -d was added 1500s (perhaps on analogy of -ard words). Later extended to other animals, and, in jocular use, to human beings (1660s).

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gallinaceous (adj.)

"of or resembling domestic fowl," 1783, from Latin gallinaceus "of hens, of fowls, pertaining to poultry," from gallina "hen," a fem. formation from gallus "cock," probably from PIE root *gal- "to call, shout," as "the calling bird." But it also has an ancient association with Gaul (see Gallic), and some speculate that this is the source of the word, "on the assumption that the Romans became acquainted with the cock from Gaul, where it was brought by the Phoenicians" [Buck].

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bantam (n.)

common name for very small varieties of the domestic hen, 1749, after Bantam, former Dutch residency in Java, from which the fowl were said to have been first imported. The extension to "small person" is by 1837. As a light weight class in boxing, it is attested from 1884, probably extended from the birds, which are small but aggressive and bred for fighting. The Indonesian Bantam, also called Banten, has a name of unknown origin, probably from a local language.

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hardscrabble (n.)

in popular use from c. 1826 as a U.S. colloquial name for any barren or impoverished place "where a livelihood may be obtained only under great hardship and difficulty" [OED]; from hard (adj.) + noun from scrabble (v.). Noted in 1813 as a place-name in New York state; first recorded in journals of Lewis and Clark (1804) as the name of a prairie. Perhaps the original notion was "vigorous effort made under great stress," though this sense is recorded slightly later (1812). As an adjective by 1845.

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cheat (n.)

late 14c., "forfeited property, reversion of property to a lord," from cheat (v.) or from escheat (n.). Meaning "a fraud committed by deception, a deceptive act" is from 1640s; earlier, in thieves' jargon, it meant "a stolen thing" (late 16c.), and earlier still "dice" (1530s). It also was used in canting slang generally, as an affix, for any "thing" (e.g. cackling-chete "a fowl," crashing-chetes "the teeth"). Meaning "a swindler, a person who cheats" is from 1660s; from 1680s as "anything which deceives or is intended to deceive."

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polecat (n.)

"small, dark-brown, northern European predatory quadruped of the weasel family," noted as a chicken-thief and for its strong, offensive smell, early 14c., pol-cat, from cat (n.); the first element is perhaps Anglo-French pol, from Old French poule "fowl, hen" (see pullet (n.)); so called because it preys on poultry [Skeat]. The other alternative is that the first element is from Old French pulent "stinking." Originally the European Putorius foetidus; the name was extended to related North American skunks by 1680s.

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