I saw something really interesting online the other day. Someone shared a link from imgur showing all the different words used for “orange” in languages in and around Europe.
Notice anything? I’m looking at the green ones, mainly. These are countries with strong Arabic influences or strong Greek ones. And… They all seem to be close variants of “Portugal”. This aroused my curiosity, so I did what any self-respecting inhabitant of the twenty-first century would do: I looked it up on Wikipedia.
According to this section, the origin of the name of the country is from the Latin “Portus Cale” – the port of Cale, where Cale is probably a Celtic name for something-or-other. It evolved into Portugal between the seventh and ninth centuries when the country had been conquered by an Arabic-speaking army and was part of the land known as الأندلس (Al-Andalus). I can’t help feeling like the similarity of “Portus Cale” to their word for a small fruit might have influenced the colonists’ pronunciation of the name of their new possession. Citrus fruits do grow in the area, so maybe if there were a lot of orange groves around it might have been a pretty good fit to call it the orange region. A few centuries later, after the reconquista rolled back the invaders, the name lives on. A place named after orange groves isn’t far-fetched. Orange County in California got its name the same way, although California hasn’t been conquered by Muslims, whatever Donald Trump might tell you.
I have absolutely no idea if there’s any truth in this. Fact-checking was never my strong point. It would be an odd linguistic legacy. Portuguese does have some inheritances from Arabic (there’s a list here if you’re interested) but their word for Orange (“laranja”) não é um deles. And yet, it just seems too… well, too right.