ginkgo[giŋ′kō; also giŋk′gō′]
Origin of ginkgoJapanese ginkyo ; from Sino-Jpn gin, silver + kyō, apricot
nounpl. gink·goes also ging·koes
Origin of ginkgoProbably from ginkyō (with graphic confusion of a romanized form of this word leading to the spelling with -kg-, in European languages) : Japanese gin, silver (from Middle Chinese ŋin, ultimately from Proto-Sino-Tibetan *ŋul; akin to Tibetan dngul and Burmese ngwe) + Japanese kyō, apricot, any of several members of the genus Prunus (from Middle Chinese x&hhook;a&tricolon;j&njlig;`, also the source of Mandarin xìng). Word History: The odd spelling of the word ginkgo, which hardly indicates the usual pronunciation (gĭng′kō) very well, results from a botanist's error. In Japanese, the name of the ginkgo tree is written with kanji that can be read as ginkyō. The kanji that is pronounced gin literally means “silver,” while the kanji pronounced kyō refers to several fruit-bearing trees of the genus Prunus, including the apricot. The kanji thus make reference to the green fruitlike structures that are borne by the female trees and contain a hard white inner seed covering similar to an apricot pit or pistachio shell. In Modern Japanese, however, these kanji are not read ginkyō but rather ginnan when they refer to the edible seeds and ichō when they refer to the tree itself. This complicated situation helps explain how the name of the tree came to be spelled ginkgo in European languages. The first Western scientist to learn of the existence of the ginkgo tree was Engelbert Kaempfer (1651–1716), a German physician and naturalist who visited Japan in 1691 and brought some seeds of the ginkgo back to Europe. During his stay in Japan, he also took notes on a Japanese work on botany and added comments on how to pronounce the names of the plants written in kanji. While taking these notes, Kaempfer apparently made a mistake and jotted down that the kanji literally meaning “silver apricot” were to be pronounced ginkgo. Later, he used these notes to prepare a book on the plants of Japan, and his mistake found its way into print. The great Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus perpetuated the error when assigning the scientific name Ginkgo biloba (“the two-lobed ginkgo”) to the tree, and the spelling has been fixed ever since.
(plural ginkgos or ginkgoes)
From Chinese 鴨脚 (yājiǎo) "duck feet" due to the shape of the leaves, the pronunciation then changing (along with the characters) to 銀杏 (yínxìng) "silver apricot". The same characters 銀杏 are used in Japanese (ichō) and Korean (eunhang). The Japanese characters used to write ginkgo look as though they could be read ginkyō, and this was the name Engelbert Kaempfer, the first Westerner to see the species in 1690, wrote down in his Amoenitates Exoticae (1712). However, his "y" was misread as a "g", and the misspelling stuck.