The Origins of Cannabis Names
Cannabis has been used by many different cultures for thousands of years and this has resulted in a complex and interesting history. To continue our journey through the life of the plant we know and love, today we are working out how exactly Cannabis got to be called, well. Cannabis!
The earliest recorded name for cannabis is a Chinese word for hemp 麻 (Má), this word is older than human written history and has been used to describe medical marijuana since at least 2700 BCE.
Other ancient words for cannabis that were used more than 2000 years ago include Bhaṅgā & Gañjikā both Sanskrit words from the Indian subcontinent and are the origin for the modern words for Bhanja and Ganja. Kάνναβις (Kánnabis) was used in ancient Greece and is the link to the modern word for cannabis. Kinnab is an Arabic word for cannabis and Kunnabu was used by the Assyrian people in ancient Mesopotamia to describe cannabis.
Hemp comes from the Old English word hænep which itself comes from Proto-Germanic word hanapiz. This is also the source for the Old Saxon word hanap, Old Norse word hampr, Old High German word hanaf and the modern German word Hanf, all of which probably come from the Scythian word Kánnabis.
Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis ruderalis are the modern botanical names for different types of the cannabis plant. Many modern cannabis strains are hybrids containing genetics from both sativa and indica and sometimes ruderalis as well. Sativa plants tend to be tallest strains of cannabis and have longer thiner leaves, indica varieties tend to be shorter and bushier with broader leaves. Ruderalis varieties are the smallest types of cannabis plant and are characterised by their short life cycle and auto flowering ability.
Ganja is the Hindu name for hemp and it's origins are from the old Sanskrit word Gañjikā used thousands of years ago. The word has been commonly used in English since 1856 when the British government started to tax the ganja and charas trade in Indian. Ganja is also the most commonly used word for cannabis in Jamaica. It's origins in Jamaica can be traced back to the arrival of more than 36,000 Indians that came to Jamaica between 1845 and 1917, they arrived as indentured labourers under the Indian indenture system, a substitution for slavery.
Marijuana is one of most common names, used around the world, to describe cannabis. Marijuana almost certainly where the popular etymology María Juana or Mary Jane comes from. The exact origins of the word Marijuana aren't completely clear, Mexican Spanish has used the word marihuana with an H instead of a J since the Mexican Revolutionary era between 1910-1920. Other suggestions for the origins of the word Marijuana are the Chinese words ma ren hua (麻仁花) which translates to hemp seed flower.