The previous post explained the development of Spanish piña, which means both ‘pine cone’ and ‘pineapple,’ from the similar Latin pinea, an adjective that meant ‘having to do with a pine tree,’ based on the pinus that has become pino/pine. From piña came not only the piñón that English borrowed as pinyon, but another Spanish relative that has increasingly made its way into English in recent decades: piñata, which we might be tempted to conceive as a sort of “pineapple” filled with little presents for children. The explosive truth, though, is that Spanish borrowed piñata from Italian pignatta ‘pot,’ a word that expresses that sort of pot’s resemblance in shape to a pigna ‘pine cone’ (Italian gn is pronounced the same as Spanish ñ). Even anatomy gets in on the resemblance game, with ‘a gland inside the head that looks like a pine nut’ and is therefore called, in Spanish as well as English, pineal.
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman