The word California originally referred to the entire region composed of the Baja California peninsula of Mexico, the current U.S. states of California, Nevada, and Utah, and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
The name California is most commonly believed to have derived from a fictional paradise peopled by Black Amazons and ruled by Queen Calafia. The story of Calafia is recorded in a 1510 work The Adventures of Esplandián, written as a sequel to Amadis de Gaula by Spanish adventure writer Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. The kingdom of Queen Calafia, according to Montalvo, was said to be a remote land inhabited by griffins and other strange beasts, and rich in gold.
Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California, very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women without a single man among them, and they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great virtue. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks.
— Chapter CLVII of The Adventures of Esplandián
The name California is the fifth oldest surviving European place-name in the US and was applied to what is now the southern tip of Baja California peninsula as the Island of California by a Spanish expedition led by Diego de Becerra and Fortún Ximénez, who landed there in 1533 at the behest of Hernán Cortés.
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Famous quotes containing the word etymology:
“Semantically, taste is rich and confusing, its etymology as odd and interesting as that of style. But while stylederiving from the stylus or pointed rod which Roman scribes used to make marks on wax tabletssuggests activity, taste is more passive.... Etymologically, the word we use derives from the Old French, meaning touch or feel, a sense that is preserved in the current Italian word for a keyboard, tastiera.”
—Stephen Bayley, British historian, art critic. Taste: The Story of an Idea, Taste: The Secret Meaning of Things, Random House (1991)
“The universal principle of etymology in all languages: words are carried over from bodies and from the properties of bodies to express the things of the mind and spirit. The order of ideas must follow the order of things.”
—Giambattista Vico (16881744)