One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Originally: any of various South African trees with reddish wood. In later use: a tree of the genus Ochna (family Ochnaceae), especially the Cape plane, O. arborea.
Late 18th century; earliest use found in Elizabeth Helme (d. 1816). From Afrikaans rooihout and its etymon South African Dutch roodehout, rooihout, specific use of Dutch roodhout denoting any of various trees with reddish wood from rood + hout wood. On the form development of the first element in Afrikaans see discussion at rooibok.
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