May 16, 2012
petunia (noun)
\pih-TOON-yuh\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: any of a genus of tropical South American herbs of the nightshade family widely grown for their showy funnel-shaped flowers
How do you use it?
Every spring, Kyla's family decorates their front porch with hanging baskets of pink, white, and purple petunias.
Are you a word wiz?

Which one of these languages do you think gave us the word "petunia"?

Even though the "petunia" is commonly found in many gardens, its tropical origins show up in the Brazilian roots of its name. It derives a word in Tupi, a language of native peoples living mainly in Brazil south of the Amazon River. The world's largest rodent, called the "capybara," also hails from South America and carries a Tupi name. An unusual hoofed animal of tropical America, the "tapir," which is related to the horse and the rhinoceros, and the small, brightly colored bird known as the "tanager" likewise have names that were borrowed from the Tupi language.
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