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The Origin of the Word Hammock

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The word “hammock” refers to a long piece of nettings or canvas hung up by the four edges and always suspended and it is used as a bed other definitions refer to the word as a ‘furniture’ that is used as a place to sleep and suspended in the length and is codded with nettings and supported on the sides to provide strength.

The English Word Hammock

The English word came from the Spanish form of the word ‘hamaca’. The Spanish had noted the frequent use of the name during the colonial period of its South Americans natives. The exact origin of the word was from the ‘Taino’ culture of the Arawakan tribe which is understood to mean probably fishing net.

But why could a bed be called a hammock? Earlier on, the nettings on the hammock were made using threads from the back of a hamack tree. The choice of the tree was however not a mere coincidence but was popular because the tree was believed to be a protection against many perils including snake bites, bites from other insects and protection from other poisonous creatures. The introduction of the hammocks to Europe is attributed to Christopher Columbus who availed them to Spain on his way from a South American island where the present day Bahamas lie.

Hammocks In The United States

The origin of the word in United States can be traced back to the 18th century and can be lifted from the English-sources dated then and afterwards. The Saxons, in evidence by Samuel Johnson said to be the originators of the word. The later evidence of the 19th century however, claims that the origin of this word was from the Athenian politician ‘Alcibiades’.

In the 16th century the use of the hammocks was extended to include the use in the ships. They became a preference because they would provide a well-balanced sleep onshore and the accidents that were there before due to falling were highly reduced. During the Second World War, The soldiers used the hammocks to not only enjoy the comfort it offered but also to increase the capacity of a single vessel tool.

The hammocks later were used as leisure. Accustomed to its use, sailors who were on leave carried it offshore. As they did not work, they just slept on them all they did was relax. This was precedence to the current day meaning attached to the hammock that have seen then become widely known and used by people for different purpose.



Portuguese Hammocks

In Portugal, ‘Pero Vaz de Caminha’ was attracted to the sleeping style of the native Taino and the way they warmed themselves by placing a fire underneath. The fire, as he describe in his 1500 journal was to keep them warm and scare away insects like mosquitos. He also note the nettings on the bedding and gives a Portuguese expression ‘rede de dormir’ to mean that the nets used to sleep over.

The other people from Europe also got to South America mostly to mine gold. Hammock was inevitable and they could never fail to mention it in almost any journal they wrote about the life in that part of the world. It is then obvious that the much widespread of the word all-over Europe was achieved. It was sooner than later and the word was legally accepted in the English language.

In general, after a long interaction with the hammock by the major European language speakers and most notably the English where the American English borrows from, it is quite logic to understand how the word came into play. It originated from the bark of a hamak tree.


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Chief Hammocker at Hammock Town
Luiz is the Founder and VP of eCommerce at Hammock Town. On weekdays you can find him working from coffee shops around the world and exploring unchartered territories with a hammock on the weekends.
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Luiz is the Founder and VP of eCommerce at Hammock Town. On weekdays you can find him working from coffee shops around the world and exploring unchartered territories with a hammock on the weekends.

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