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maelstrom (n.)

1680s (Hakluyt, 1560s, has Malestrand), name of a famous tidal whirlpool off the northwest coast of Norway, supposed to suck in and destroy everything that approached it at all times (in fact it is not dangerous except under certain conditions), from Danish malstrøm (1673), from older Dutch Maelstrom (modern maalstroom), literally "grinding-stream," from malen "to grind" (from PIE root *mele- "to crush, grind") + stroom "stream" (from PIE root *sreu- "to flow").

The name was used by Dutch cartographers (for example Mercator, 1595). OED says it is perhaps originally from Færoic mal(u)streymur. Popularized as a synonym for "whirlpool" from c. 1841, the year of Poe's "A Descent into the Maelstrom."

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