One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
The Russian sturgeon, Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, found in the basins of the Caspian Sea, the Sea of Azov, and the Black Sea, and fished as a source of caviar.
Mid 18th century; earliest use found in Jonas Hanway (bap. 1712, d. 1786), merchant and philanthropist. From Russian osëtr, probably from the same base as ostryj sharp, with reference either to the elongated shape of the fish or to its sharp fins. The semantic element ‘sharp’ also occurs in the cognate Lithuanian forms ašėtras, eršket(r)as, and in the scientific Latin acipenser.
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