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  1. a tropical plant of the genus Musa, certain species of which are cultivated for their nutritious fruit.Compare banana family.
  2. 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 confusedbanana plantain1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for banana

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • 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

  • Do you think the government can wait for you to finish a banana?

    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


  1. 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
  2. the crescent-shaped fruit of any of these plantsCompare plantain 2

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

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

Idioms and Phrases with banana


In addition to the idiom beginning with banana

also see:

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.