One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A large fierce dog or mastiff of a breed valued for its use in hunting and fighting.
Late Middle English; earliest use found in Geoffrey Chaucer (c1340–1400), poet and administrator. From Anglo-Norman and Middle French alant, Middle French alan, allan, allant, alland (French alain, alan), probably from Spanish alano, of uncertain origin; perhaps ultimately a transferred use of classical Latin Alānus, with allusion to the animal's ferocity.
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