The genus Musa was first named by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. The name is a Latinisation of the Arabic name for the fruit, mauz (موز). The word "banana" came to English from Spanish and Portuguese, which in turn apparently obtained it from a West African language (possibly Wolof).
From the time of Linnaeus until the 1940s, different types of edible bananas and plantains were given Linnaean binomial names, such as Musa cavendishii, as if they were species. In fact, edible bananas have an extremely complicated origin involving hybridisation, mutation, and finally selection by humans. Most edible bananas are seedless (parthenocarpic), hence sterile, so they are propagated vegetatively. The giving of species names to what are actually very complex, largely asexual, hybrids (mostly of two species of wild bananas, Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana) led to endless confusion in banana botany. In the 1940s and 1950s, it became clear to botanists that the cultivated bananas and plantains could not usefully be assigned Linnean binomials, but were better given cultivar names.
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