BETEL, s. The leaf of the Piper betel, L., chewed with the dried areca-nut (which is thence improperly called betel-nut, a mistake as old as Fryer—1673,—see p. 40), chunam, etc., by the natives of India and the Indo-Chinese countries. The word is Malayal. vettila, i.e. veru+ila = ‘simple or mere leaf,’ and comes to us through the Port. betre and betle. Pawn (q.v.) is the term more generally used by modern Anglo-Indians. In former times the betel-leaf was in S. India the subject of a monopoly of the E. I. Co.

1298.—“All the people of this city (Cael) as well as of the rest of India, have a custom of perpetually keeping in the mouth a certain leaf called Tembul.…the lords and gentlefolks and the King have these leaves prepared with camphor and other aromatic spices, and also mixt with quick-lime.…”—Marco Polo, ii. 358. See also Abdurrazzak, in India in XV. Cent., p. 32.

1498.—In Vasco da Gama’s Roteiro, p. 59, the word used is atombor, i.e. al-tambul (Arab.) from the Skt. tambula. See also Acosta, p. 139. [See TEMBOOL.]

1510.—“This betel resembles the leaves of the sour orange, and they are constantly eating it.”—Varthema, p. 144.

1516.—“We call this betel Indian leaf.”1Barbosa, 73.

[1521.—‘Bettre (or vettele).” See under ARECA.]

1552.—“.…at one side of the bed…stood a man…who held in his hand a gold plate with leaves of betelle. …”—De Barros, Dec. I. liv. iv. cap. viii.

1563.—“We call it betre, because the first land known by the Portuguese was Malabar, and it comes to my remembrance that in Portugal they used to speak of their coming not to India, but to Calecut.…insomuch that in all the names that occur, which are not Portuguese, are Malabar, like betre.”—Garcia, f. 37g.

1582.—The transl. of Castañeda by N. L. has betele (f. 35), and also vitele (f. 44).

1585.—A King’s letter grants the revenue from betel (betre) to the bishop and clergy of Goa.—In Arch. Port. Or., fasc. 3, p. 38.

1615.—“He sent for Coco-Nuts to give the Company, himselfe chewing Bittle and lime of Oyster-shels, with a Kernell of Nut called Arracca, like an Akorne, it bites in the mouth, accords rheume, cooles the head, strengthens the teeth, & is all their Phisicke.”—Sir T. Roe, in Purchas, i. 537; [with some trifling variations in Foster’s ed. (Hak. Soc.) i. 19].

1623.—“Celebratur in universo oriente radix quaedam vocata Betel, quam Indi et reliqui in ore habere et mandere consueverunt, atque ex eâ mansione mire recreantur, et ad labores tolerandos, et ad languores discutiendos.…videtur autem esse ex narcoticis, quia magnopere denigrat dentes.”—Bacon, Historia Vitae et Mortis, ed. Amst. 1673, p. 97.

1672.—“They pass the greater part of the day in indolence, occupied only with talk, and chewing Betel and Areca, by which means their lips and teeth are always stained.”—P. di Vincenzo Maria, 232.

1677.—The Court of the E. I. Co. in a letter to Ft. St. George, Dec. 12, disapprove of allowing “Valentine Nurse 20 Rupees a month for diet, 7 Rs. for houserent, 2 for a cook, 1 for Beetle, and 2 for a Porter, which is a most extravagant rate, which we shall not allow him or any other.”—Notes and Exts., No. i. p. 21.

1727.—“I presented the Officer that waited on me to the Sea-side (at Calicut) with 5 zequeens for a feast of bettle to him and his companions.”—A. Hamilton, i. 306.

BETTEELA, BEATELLE, &c., s. The name of a kind of muslin constantly mentioned in old trading- lists and narratives. This seems to be a Sp. and Port. word beatilla or beatilha, for ‘a veil,’ derived, according to Cobarruvias, from “certain beatas, who invented or used the like.” Beata is a religieuse. [“The Betilla is a certain kind of white E. I. chintz made at Masulipatam, and known under the name of Organdi.”—Mad. Admin. Man. Gloss. p. 233.]

[1566.—A score Byatilhas, which were worth 200 pardaos.”—Correa, iii. 479.]


“Vestida huma camisa preciosa
Trazida de delgada beatilha,
Que o corpo crystallino deixa ver-se;
Que tanto bem não he para esconder-se.”

Camões, vi. 21.

1598.—“…this linnen is of divers sorts, and is called Serampuras, Cassas, Comsas, Beattillias, Satopassas, and a thousand such names.”—Linschoten, 28; [Hak. Soc. i. 95; and cf. i. 56].

1685.—“To servants, 3 pieces beteelaes.”—In Wheeler, i. 149.

1727.—“Before Aurungzeb conquered Visiapore, this country (Sundah) produced the finest Betteelas or Muslins in India.”—A. Hamilton, i. 264.

[1788.—“There are various kinds of muslins brought from the East Indies, chiefly from Bengal: Betelles, &c.”—Chambers’ Cycl., quoted in 3 ser. Notes & Q. iv. 88.]

  By PanEris using Melati.

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