One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
An Indian fig tree whose branches produce aerial roots that later become accessory trunks. A mature tree may cover several acres in this manner.
Ficus benghalensis, family Moraceae
- ‘The monument is a massive flagpole entwined with the trunk and branches of a symbolic banyan tree forged in steel.’
- ‘The branches of the banyan tree had apparently entered deep into a building on Patullos Road and posed a threat to the stability of the building.’
- ‘A porter stops to rest under the shade of a huge banyan tree, its trunk twisting out of the earth and its umbrella-like branches arching over a granite stairway.’
- ‘The day includes the ceremonial watering of banyan trees to commemorate the banyan tree under which Buddha sat when he attained enlightenment.’
- ‘Then it scampered off up the aerial roots of a nearby banyan tree.’
Late 16th century: from Portuguese, from Gujarati vāṇiyo ‘man of the trading caste’, from Sanskrit. Originally denoting a Hindu merchant, the term was applied, by Europeans in the mid 17th century, to a tree under which such traders had built a pagoda.
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