A tropical American plant now cultivated commercially for the nutritious starch obtained from the root.
The name, however, according to Sir Hans Sloane, a British naturalist who wrote of this plant in 1696 in his catalogue of Jamaican plants, arose from its use by Indians to counteract the effect of poisoned arrows.
“But,” says the New International Encyclopedia, “it is not improbable that the name is really another form of ara, an Indian word.”
No one now living can be certain.
We’d love to be able to assert confidently that the Indians used the root to tip their arrows with poison, thus opposing Sir Hans.