pungent powder made from the root of an East Indian plant, 1530s, altered from Middle English turmeryte (early 15c.), which is of uncertain origin. "Middle English Compendium" compares Medieval Latin terra merita (16c.), French terre mérite (17c.), literally "worthy earth," though the reason why it would be called this is obscure. Klein suggests it might be a folk-etymology corruption of Arabic kurkum "curcuma, saffron."