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late 14c., from Middle French phenicien, from Latin Phoenice, from Greek Phoinike "Phoenicia" (including Carthage), perhaps literally "land of the purple" (i.e., source of purple dye, the earliest use of which was ascribed to the Phoenicians by the Greeks). Identical with phoenix (q.v.), but the relationship is obscure. In reference to a language from 1836; as an adjective from c.1600.