Origins of Common Words - Jungle

About the history, origins, and definitions of the common word jungle.


Jungle - Though jungle usually evokes images of lush tropical rain forests, it comes from a Hindi word describing an unused, uncultivated area, or wasteland. Thus, in 1783, Edmund Burke wrote of a land "almost throughout a dreary desert, covered with rushes, and briers, and jungles full of wild beasts," a description that seems paradoxical today. By 1850, jungle referred to any land, particularly tropical, characterized by tangled vegetation and, metaphorically, to any place of competition and complexity. So, much as Thomas Carlyle wrote then of "a world-wide jungle of red tape," we speak now of the asphalt jungle, the blackboard jungle, and the concrete jungle.

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