One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In parts of south and south-east Asia, especially Siam (now Thailand): a long and richly decorated state barge propelled by oars.
Mid 17th century; earliest use found in Henry Cogan (fl. 1652–1653). Originally from Portuguese balão, † ballaam; in later use partly reborrowed from French balon, † ballon long, oared boat of south-east Asia.
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