In French, the
word malabar is used to designate a
man who is physically strong and well built, a muscle man, so to speak. This word has been transmitted to us French
through the sailors, because in its primary meaning, a malabar is a docker,
whom the western sailors have come across in the Easten harbours and who
originates from the Malabar coast in India.
This region belongs to the Indian State of Kerala, and derives its name
from the malayalam
മലബാര് /malabār/, itself derived from the ethnonym /malay/ meaning « inhabitant
of Kerala ; one who speaks malayalam ».
But the very root
of this word comes from the proto-dravidian word /*màl/ ( മല /mala/in malayalam, மலை /malay/in tamil...) meaning « mountain, hill »,
since the state of Kerala is delimited by the sea on one side and by a hilly area
on the other, which serves as a natural
When we French people hear the word malabar, what immediately comes to our mind is the thick pinkish chewing gum that we call malabar, which became popular in the 1970s, and whose icon is a non Keralite body-built blond muscle-man.The relationship between the chewing gum and its muscled icon underlines how strong a jaw we need to chew this gum !
The words Malaysia and Malaysian could as well be
derived from the dravidian « mala », although another hypothesis
states the name of the Melayu river
located on the nearby island of Sumatra as a more probable origin.
The second part
of the word malabar probably
originates from the arabic برّ/barr/« land, country », which is used in
other toponyms, as is the case for Zanzibar whose persian nameزنگبار/zangibār/comes from the arabic زنجبرّ /zanjbar/meaning « the land of the blacks (زنج /zanj/)».
Spanish word barrio « slum » was borrowed from the arabic برّيّة /barriyat/« open land».
From this same
root comes the catalan barri, which
designates a place which is inhabited outside the city, from which are derived
the French pyrenean patronym Dubarry and
its counterparts Barielle, Barriol or Barrios.