The banana plug seems to be a German invention (German Wikipedia), although English Wikipedia gives an alternative American origin.

But neither article discussed the origin of the word. It may be that I could find the origin if my German were better, but the only etymology I can find in English is in bright hub where it says:

Why Are They Called Banana Plugs?

First of all, what’s with that funky name? Banana plugs are small cylindrical plugs that have a very distinctive bulged prong. This bulge houses a spring that, when inserted into a socket, presses outwards to ensure a solid and secure connection. The plug takes its name from the shape of this prong, which reminds many people of a straightened out banana.

But I think this is a wild guess, as they offer no sources and it does not make sense. When we say something is banana shaped we are referring to its curvature - a straightened banana simply means "straight" - like all pins on plugs!

So can someone with better German than me please help?

  • 2
    Huh? It does make sense. The spring is bend like a banana. – Janka Nov 8 at 0:45

A picture is worth a thousand words, so let's take a look

enter image description hereReferenz: Jan Kandziora, Bananenstecker2, CC BY-SA 3.0

As you can see, there is a banana shaped spring. "Banana shaped" doesn't refer to the pin, but the spring which is part of the pin and holds it in place.

Or as english Wikipedia says

The pin has one or more lengthwise springs that bulge outwards slightly, giving the appearance of a banana.

Source

EDIT

From the comments: @DavidRobinson "I wonder if there any evidence to support this or any evidence as to who first called it a Bananenstecker. Or whether it was named first in German or in English."

I tried to look up the origin of the word Bananenstecker. Whether it's some kind of marketing, made up by the inventor or a nickname given by the users. Unfortunately i couldn't find any "hard" evidence. The patent is described as

Stecker mit Klemmvorrichtung fuer den Anschlussdraht im Isolierkoerper

and i wasn't able to look up the whole patent description in order to see if Hirschmann called it "Bananenstecker" or "banana shaped" back then.

But looking up old books from the late 1920s you will find it frequently used as early as 1925. 1 year after its invention.

ETZ: Elektrotechnische Zeitschrift: Ausg. A., Band 46,Teil 1 (1925)

Die Firma Hans Boas hat nunmehr eine Neukonstruktion auf den Markt gebracht (Abb. 10), die äußerlich dem Bananenstecker ähnelt, durch

Wissenschaftliche Abhandlungen der Physikalisch-Technischen Reichsanstalt, Band 9 (1926)

Die leitende Verbindung zwischen den beiden Plattensystemen je zweier aufeinander- gesetzter Kondensatoren erfolgt durch Doppel- Bananenstecker.

Books using the english "banana plug" or "banana connector" seem to be published a few years later around 1930

The Wireless World and Radio Review, Band 26 (1930)

The more modern "banana" plug, which is of tubular form with, four slots which do not extend quite to the end

Therefore i presume the german word "Bananenstecker" was first.

  • That makes sense. I suppose they look a bit like bananas. I thought it meant the pin looked like a banana. I wonder if there any evidence to support this or any evidence as to who first called it a Bananenstecker. Or whether it was named first in German or in English. – David Robinson Nov 8 at 1:50
  • 1
    @DavidRobinson Please note that modern 4mm plugs still are called "Bananenstecker" by engineers although they do not have the banana-shaped spring any more. – Martin Rosenau Nov 8 at 8:10
  • One of the rare cases of a usefull picture. – user unknown Nov 8 at 8:25
  • Please note that according to German law, the angle in which a banana is bent can only be within a certain range. If your Bananenstecker doesn't adhere to that law, it shouldn't be called that way. Also, if a banana doesn't adhere to the law, it's not a banana! – Philipp Nov 8 at 8:57
  • Calling that in its entirety straight thing a banana plug is indeed misleading. It should be called a zucchini plug or a cucumber plug. – Christian Geiselmann Nov 8 at 13:09

The German Wikipedia article you linked to in your question says:

Seinen Namen verdankt er der Bananenform des Blattfederelementes, mit dem der Stecker relativ fest, aber dennoch ohne Werkzeug lösbar, in der Buchse sitzt.

Translated to English:

It derives its name from the banana shape of the spring element, which causes the plug to stay in the socket quite securely, yet removable without the use of tools.

So, it's not the prong itself that is said to be banana-shaped (straightened out or not), but the retractable curved epement in the prong.

I realize this is basically the same as what was said in mtwde's answer. Still, I found it worth pointing out an explicit reason for the name is provided in the very article the OP had linked to in the question.

  • The quote is interesting as such, but your conclusion is wrong. It is not because somebody claims it in a Wikipedia article that something is true. The only thing you can argue is true is that somebody claims that there is a relation between the form of the spring and the name of the thing. I am not one of those who cry for evidence needed all day long in Wikipedia articles, but in this case I would. – Christian Geiselmann Nov 8 at 13:12
  • "It is not because somebody claims it in a Wikipedia article that something is true." - where in the world have I claimed that? – O. R. Mapper Nov 8 at 13:19
  • Thank you, @O.R.Mapper for the translation which helps, but since the springs look only a bit like bananas, we definitely need more evidence than an anonymous author on Wikipedia saying this is the reason for the name. – David Robinson Nov 8 at 13:55
  • @DavidRobinson: I did not intend to present the WP article as some real evidence of any kind. I just intended to point out a possible reason for the name from precisely the sources you apparently expected one in, as indicated by your statement "But neither article discussed the origin of the word". – O. R. Mapper Nov 8 at 15:48

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