In Chinese, ta-feng means “violent ‘winds.” A mispronunciation of this word became the name for the violent cyclones in the Pacific Ocean: typhoons.
The generic term cyclone was coined in 1844 and was meant to call to mind the whirling image of a coiled, striking snake.
The word hurricane comes from the language of an extinct West Indian tribe, the Taino. Huracan meant “evil spirit” and was associated with the God of Evil who sent wind storms to punish people.
The custom of naming hurricanes began at least 150 years ago. Early names were taken from Christian saints traditionally honored the day a hurricane happened to take place.
The 1825 hurricane Santa Ana was named for Saint Ann. From 1953 to 1979, hurricanes were christened with female names, beginning with the letter A and proceeding through the alphabet.
One impact of the feminist revolution in the 1970s was to begin using male as well as female names. Now the names run through the alphabet alternating male and female.