Did You Know These Redundant Words and Phrases?

2 min read

Think of the phrase “ahi tuna.” In Hawaiian, ahi is a type of tuna, so the term translates to “tuna tuna.” In Italian, scampi means “shrimp,” so that restaurant special board is just repetitive. Here are a few more redundant words and phrases that have become a part of common English vocabulary.

Milky Way Galaxy (“Milky Way Milky Circle”)

In Greek mythology, the goddess Hera was breastfeeding baby Hercules and sprayed her milk across the sky. Galaxias translates to “milky circle,” and it initially applied to the ring of celestial bodies seen from Earth. When later galaxies were discovered, the term was extended. When referring to the home galaxy, “Milky Way” is fine on its own, unless you want to use the slightly redundant “Milky Way Milky Circle.”

Chai Tea (“Tea Tea”)

This popular Indian drink is made by boiling black tea in milk and water with various herbs and spices. Many people call this “chai tea,” which translates redundantly to “tea tea.” However, the correct name for this type of hot beverage is masala tea. Masala has roots in several South Asian dialects, but roughly translates to “spices.” Traditional chai includes warming spices such as cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and peppercorns. Lovers of Indian cuisine will recognize masala from the garam masala spice blend and the tikka masala dish.

DC Comics (“Detective Comics Comics”)

One of America's oldest and most significant comic book companies, DC Comics is responsible for creating iconic heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. It first published titles under the name Detective Comics beginning in 1937. Later, it would shorten its name to the snappier, yet redundant, DC Comics.

Naan Bread (“Bread Bread”)

This flat, leavened bread is popular throughout parts of Asia and India. In Urdu and Persian, nān means bread, so there’s no need to add the second word to your naan order.  

Sahara Desert (“Desert Desert”)

In Arabic, the word “sahara” means “desert.” So, it’s fair to say this 3.5 million square-mile area, famous for reaching temperatures of up to 104° F, has earned the name “Desert Desert.” This isn’t just redundant, it falls into the category of tautological place names, meaning titles in which the same thing is said twice in different forms. Other tautological place names include the Cuyahoga River (Crooked River River in Mohawk), Lake Ontario (Lake Beautiful Lake in Iroquoian), Summit Peak in New Zealand, and Table Mesa in multiple states.

Lake Tahoe (“The Lake Lake”)

This large freshwater lake between California and Nevada has another tautological name. Its title comes from the Washo word dá’aw, which means "The Lake." Today, there are only about 20 native speakers of Washo alive in the United States.

Mississippi River (“Big River River”)

As the second-longest river in North America, the Mississippi’s tautological name shows off its size. The term comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi, meaning “big river.” The branch of the Missouri River where it meets the Mississippi is nicknamed Big Muddy, perhaps owing a nod to the translation.

P.S.: Phrases such as “completely full” and “very unique” are redundant, too. Consider those modifiers carefully and let your robust vocabulary do the work.

Featured image credit: shironosov/ iStock

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