Etymology

ginger (n.)

11c., from Old English ginȝifer, ginȝiber, from Late Latin gingiber, from Latin zingiberi, from Greek zingiberis, from Prakrit (Middle Indic) singabera, from Sanskrit srngaveram, from srngam "horn" + vera- "body," so called from the shape of its root. But this may be Sanskrit folk etymology, and the word may be from an ancient Dravidian word that also produced the modern name for the spice, inchi-ver (inchi "ginger", ver "root"). 

Bishop Caldwell and Drs. Burnell and Gundert considered that the Tamil iñci must have had an initial ś- formerly, that the Sanskrit śṛṅgabera was an imitation of the (supposititious) Tamil ciñcivēr and that European zingiber was derived from the Tamil name. [R. Swaminatha Aiyar, Dravidian Theories]

The word apparently was readopted in Middle English from Old French gingibre (12c., Modern French gingembre). In reference to coloring, by 1785 of fighting cocks, 1885 of persons (gingery with reference to hair is from 1852). The meaning "spirit, spunk, temper" is from 1843, American English (see gin (v.1)).

Ginger-ale is recorded by 1822, the term adopted by manufacturers to distinguish their product from ginger beer (1809), which was sometimes fermented. Ginger-snap as a type of hard cookie flavored with ginger is by 1855, American English.

updated on September 21, 2022