One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In South America: a large hut in certain Indian villages; the village itself.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in Alfred Wallace (1823–1913), naturalist, evolutionary theorist, and social critic. From Brazilian Portuguese maloca or Bolivian Spanish, Argentinian Spanish, Colombian Spanish, Venezuelan Spanish maloca an Indian settlement in one or more buildings; earlier in Brazilian Portuguese, Argentinian Spanish, Uruguayan Spanish in the sense ‘unexpected attack by Indians’ (17th–early 19th centuries) from Mapuche malocan to make war, to fight. The transition of sense from ‘attack’ to ‘dwelling’ probably followed the pacification of the indigenous population of the Argentinian pampas, and spread northwards in later use.
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