One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking areas: a pelican; especially the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis. Now historical and rare.
Mid 16th century; earliest use found in Richard Eden (c1520–1576), translator. Partly from Italian † alcatrazzo and its etymon Spanish alcatraz, denoting various kinds of pelican, and partly from Portuguese alcatraz brown booby, also frigate bird, both probably from Arabic al-ġattās from al the + ġattās kind of sea eagle.
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