One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Originally (in form maia): the common spider crab of Europe, Maja squinado, having a spiny red, reddish brown, or yellowish carapace. Later (in forms Maia, Maja): a genus of decapod crustaceans (family Majidae), comprising this and various other spider crabs.
Early 18th century; earliest use found in Phillips's New World of Words. From ancient Greek μαῖα, the name of a kind of large crab, as specifically application of μαῖα midwife. In later use after scientific Latin Maja.
In Spain and Spanish-speaking countries: a woman who dresses gaily; a pretty young woman; (in early use sometimes) specifically †one from a lower social class (obsolete).
Late 18th century; earliest use found in 1st Earl of Malmesbury (1746–1820), diplomatist. From Spanish maja, feminine of majo.
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