Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Mayan term for Maize is of Mande origin.

The Mayan term for Maize is of Mande origin. People have assumed that the Portuguese introduced Maize to Africa but there is no evidence that they spread the cultivation of Maize to Africa (Miracle,1965).

The first mention of Maize outside of Mexico by the Portuguese was in 1550, by Giovanni Battista Ramusio, who claimed that Maize was being cultivated in the Islands of São Tomé and Principe (Maize cultivationPaz-Sanchez,2013). Although Maize was being cultivated on the Islands, there is no mention of Portuguese introducing the cultivation of the crop to Africa.

The Mande term for Maize is Kan. In Africa crops introduced by the Portuguese was called manputo, ‘Portuguese grain’.
In Kaufman’s, Preliminary Mayan Etymological Dictionary, p.1057 See:


  • %% MAIZE %%

    EM+GQ *k'uu=nhaah
    AKA k'unah
    AKA k'unah
    POP k'unhah
    POP k'unhah

Here we discover that Mayan term for Maize is K’unah.

In Delafosse , La Langue Mandingue et ses Dialectes (Malinke, Bambara, Dioula (1955) he notes on page 315, kâ (kan) is “maize”, in the Mande languages. It is obvious from a cursory examination of Mayan K’unah, and Mande Kan, that they are related, not only do they have the same meaning they also share the same phonetic construction K-N.


Miracle, M.P. (1965).The Introduction and Spread of Maize in Africa, The Journal of African History, 6(1):39-55.

Paz-Sánchez, M. (2013) “Wheat of Portugal. The African adventure of maize”. Culture & History Digital Journal 2(2): e028. doi:

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