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Das Meerschweinchen -> The Guinea pig

If we can think of the word as Meer-Schweinchen, Meer means sea and Schweinchen means piglet. Is there any historical reason for Guinea Pig's to be called Ocean piglets?

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    Note that the figurative Guinea pig is to be translated as Versuchskaninchen instead. Jan 29 at 21:07

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The reason is that the guinea pig has been imported from overseas. It is called pig, "because it makes the sound of a pig". See the "Etymologie" section at: https://www.dwds.de/wb/Meerschweinchen

Another instance of a German word, where Meer- is indicating exotic provenance is Meerkatze ("guenon"), as they stem from Africa. For Meerrettich ("horse raddish"), there is a theory, that the naming follows the same pattern (see Wikipedia for more details).

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    Another word where Meer can be interpreted as "from overseas" or "exotic" is Meerrettich = "horse radish".
    – RDBury
    Jan 28 at 15:56
  • @RDBury Nice. I amended my answer accordingly. Jan 28 at 16:46
  • Another theory for "Meerkatze" is that is derived from the Sanskrit word "markata“ (which means monkey). See biologie-seite.de/Biologie/Meerkatzen. For "Meerschweinchen" also see meerschweinchen-wissen.de/allgemein/….
    – Paul Frost
    Jan 28 at 17:50
  • @PaulFrost Interesting. Unfortunately, the second theory has no source in the linked article. Do you have a linguistic source for the theory? The etymological dictionary at dwds (Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Deutschen) only mentions the overseas theory. Jan 29 at 19:30
  • @jonathan.scholbach You are right, there is no source for the "markata" theory. But I also doubt that there is a reliable source for the overseas theory. In my opinion each explanation is somewhat speculative; it only appears to be more or less plausible.
    – Paul Frost
    Jan 31 at 23:43

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