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[buh-nan-uh] /bəˈnæn ə/
a tropical plant of the genus Musa, certain species of which are cultivated for their nutritious fruit.
Compare banana family.
the fruit, especially that of M. paradisiaca, with yellow or reddish rind.
Origin of banana
1590-1600; < Spanish < Portuguese (perhaps via Sp); akin to various words for banana or plantain in WAfr languages (e.g., Wolof, Malinke banana, Vai (Mande language of Liberia) bana), but ultimate source and direction of borrowing uncertain
Can be confused
banana, plantain. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for banana
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Do you think the government can wait for you to finish a banana?

    Pee-wee Harris Percy Keese Fitzhugh
  • In two bites, or in three at most, he could finish the banana and his hand would be free.

    Pee-wee Harris Percy Keese Fitzhugh
  • "Stick the letter in the banana," he said, holding the banana down.

    Pee-wee Harris Percy Keese Fitzhugh
  • This banana, it's—it's the same as a mail box—you stick the letter in the banana.

    Pee-wee Harris Percy Keese Fitzhugh
  • Some careless youngster had thrown a banana skin on the walk.

    Sure Pop and the Safety Scouts

    Roy Rutherford Bailey
British Dictionary definitions for banana


any of several tropical and subtropical herbaceous treelike plants of the musaceous genus Musa, esp M. sapientum, a widely cultivated species propagated from suckers and having hanging clusters of edible fruit
the crescent-shaped fruit of any of these plants Compare plantain2
Word Origin
C16: from Spanish or Portuguese, of African origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for banana

1590s, borrowed by Spanish or Portuguese from a West African word, possibly Wolof banana. The plant was introduced to the New World from Africa in 1516. Top banana, second banana, etc. are 1950s, from show business slang use of banana for "comedian, especially in a burlesque show." Banana split first attested 1920. Banana oil "nonsense" is slang from c.1910.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for banana



  1. A comedian, esp in a burlesque show •These performers were ranked as ''top banana,'' ''second banana,'' etc (1950s+ Show business)
  2. A sexually attractive light-skinned black woman Considered offensive by the women to whom this term is applied (1940s+ Black)
  3. The penis (1916+)
  4. An Oriental sympathetic with and part of the white majority society •Because white on the inside though yellow on the outside (1980s+)
  5. A patient with jaundice (1980s+ Medical)
  6. A fool; an idiot •Attested as college slang in 1989, probably based on bananas (1920+)
  7. A crazy person; loony (1970s+)

Related Terms

have one's banana peeled, top banana

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with banana


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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