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sequoia

[si-kwoi-uh] /sɪˈkwɔɪ ə/
noun
1.
either of two large coniferous trees of California, Sequoiadendron giganteum or Sequoia sempervirens, both having reddish bark and reaching heights of more than 300 feet (91 meters).
Origin
1840-1850
1840-50, Americanism; named after Sequoya
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for sequoia

sequoia

/sɪˈkwɔɪə/
noun
1.
either of two giant Californian coniferous trees, Sequoia sempervirens (redwood) or Sequoiadendron giganteum (formerly Sequoia gigantea) (big tree or giant sequoia): family Taxodiaceae
Word Origin
C19: New Latin, named after Sequoya, known also as George Guess, (?1770–1843), American Indian scholar and leader
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 sequoia
n.

large American coniferous tree, 1857, from Modern Latin tree genus name given 1847 by Austrian botanist Stephan Endlicher (1804-1849), originally to a different tree, the coast redwood, apparently in honor of Sequoya (a.k.a. George Guess, 1760-1843), Cherokee man who invented a system of writing for his people's language, whose name is from Cherokee (Iroquoian) Sikwayi, a word of unknown etymology.

Endlicher was a specialist in conifers, and he also was a philologist. But he never gave an etymology of this name and a search of his papers discovered no mention of Sequoya or the Cherokee writing system, and the connection is an assumption that some botanists have challenged, though no better candidate for a source has yet been found.

The giant sequoia was unseen by Europeans until 1833 and unknown to scientists until 1852. In May 1855, a pair of American botanists named it Taxodium giganteum, but that name was deemed inappropriate for several scientific reasons. Meanwhile, English botanist John Lindley, who had never been to California, in 1853 named it Wellingtonia in honor of the Duke of Wellington. "As high as Wellington towers above his contemporaries, as high towers this California tree above the forest surrounding it. Therefore, it shall bear for all time to come the name Wellingtonia gigantea." This sat poorly with the Americans, and much ink was spilled until a French botanist provided the solution by transferring Endlicher's name. In Britain still popularly called Wellingtonia.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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