By popular demand (in this thread), I am discussing the various words for ‘eggplant’ (Solanum melongena, a comestible with a far wider variety of shapes and colors than most of us are aware of—there’s a very nice photograph of “a smorgasboard of eggplants” here). The word eggplant itself is the odd man out here (and odd it is, too, until you see the variety it must originally have referred to: scroll most of the way down this page for a dramatic photograph of what do indeed look exactly like eggs with green stems); the English word that will start us on our voyage is aubergine. This is, as you might guess, borrowed from French; the French word is from Catalan albergínia, which is from Arabic al-bādinjān (with the definite article al-), itself borrowed from Persian bādingān, which is probably from Middle Indo-Aryan *vātiñjana-, vātingana-; most sources attribute the latter form to Sanskrit, but I don’t find it in my dictionaries.
The Arabic word is the source also of Spanish berenjena, which the Italians (assimilating it to mela ‘apple’) borrowed as melanzana, which they then folk-etymologized as mela insana ‘mad apple’; Hobson-Jobson, in its usual discursive fashion, says:
The Ital. mela insana is the most curious of these corruptions, framed by the usual effort after meaning, and connecting itself with the somewhat indigestible reputation of the vegetable as it is eaten in Italy, which is a fact. When cholera is abroad it is considered (e.g. in Sicily) to be an act of folly to eat the melanzana. There is, however, behind this, some notion (exemplified in the quotation from Lane’s Mod. Egypt. below) connecting the badinjān with madness. [Burton, Ar. Nights, iii. 417.] And it would seem that the old Arab medical writers give it a bad character as an article of diet. Thus Avicenna says the badinjān generates melancholy and obstructions. To the N. O. Solanaceae many poisonous plants belong.
This is under the heading brinjaul, a form now spelled brinjal, of which the OED (which classifies it as “Anglo-Indian”) says: “Few names even of plants exemplify so fully the changes to which a foreign and unintelligible word is liable under the influence of popular etymology and form-association… The Malay berinjalā, prob. from Pg., illustrates the Anglo-Indian form… In the West Indies brinjalle has been further corrupted to brown-jolly.” The Portuguese form referred to is spelled beringela in Portugal and berinjela in Brazil; Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) has both berengena and merengena (the former used among the Istanbul Sephardic community according to my dictionary); and the Neapolitans, idiosyncratic as usual, borrowed the Arabic as mulignana.
Greek μελιτζάνα [melitzána] and Slovene melancána are borrowed from Italian, but most other Eastern European words come from Turkish patlıcan (itself an eccentric borrowing from Arabic): Greek Romany patlidžáno (plural patlidzéa), Albanian patëllxhan, Serbo-Croatian patlidžan, Hungarian padlizsán, Polish bakłażan (there’s also oberżyna, presumably from German Aubergine, which is obviously from French), Russian баклажан [baklazhán]. The Yiddish word is patlezhán; perhaps one of my Yiddish-scholar readers can tell me what the immediate source is, but it’s clearly in this group.
Other forms: Swahili bilingani, Malagasy baranjely, Somali birinjal (according to this page) or bidingal (according to my dictionary)… oh, and a local descendent of the Middle Indic forms, Hindi/Urdu bai(n)gan, is the source of the West Indian form baigan (current in Guyana and Trinidad).
You can see still more eggplant words (of all origins) here.
Whew. Let the additions and corrections begin!