One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
More fully "alpiste seed". The seed of the canary grass, Phalaris canariensis, fed to cage birds; (occasionally also) any of several other grass seeds of similar appearance or use.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in John Gerard (c1545–1612), herbalist. From French alpiste from Spanish alpiste from Spanish Arabic al-bišṭ from al the + bišṭ seed of the canary grass from post-classical Latin pistum (636 in Isidore), probably a specific use of classical Latin pistum.
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