One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Originally (in Indonesia and Fiji): a king, queen, or prince; a local ruler. Now especially (in Fiji): a man of noble rank; chief.
Early 19th century; earliest use found in John Leyden (1775–1811), linguist and poet. Partly from Indonesian ratu (now chiefly) queen, (also) king and Malay ratu king, queen (from Javanese ratu sovereign, king, queen; already in Old Javanese), and partly from Fijian ratu king, queen (from the same Malayo-Polynesian base as the Javanese word), both cognate with Malay datu ruler, datuk elder, title of respect.
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