tre·​pang tri-ˈpaŋ How to pronounce trepang (audio)
: any of several large sea cucumbers (as of the genera Actinopyga and Holothuria) that are taken mostly in the southwestern Pacific and are boiled, dried, and used especially in Asian cuisine

called also bêche-de-mer

Word History


borrowed from Indonesian Malay teripang (phonetically təripaŋ), probably borrowed from the second element of Indonesian Bajau (Austronesian language of Sulawesi and other islands of eastern Indonesia) balaq talipang, name for the holothurian Thelenota ananas, literally, "centipede sea cucumber," from balaq "sea cucumber" + talipang "centipede"

Note: See Akamine Jun, "Trepang and Lalipan: A Linguistic Note towards the Reconstruction of Social History of Maritime Southeast Asia," Hakusan jinruigaku/Hakusan Review of Anthropology, vol. 13 (March, 2010), pp. 35-41. Akamine does not specify whether the form talipang originates from his own fieldwork or from a published (or unpublished) source. Assuming the form exists, its plausibility as a source for Malay tǝripaŋ would be high. For the many and divergent outcomes of proto-Malayo-Polynesian *Ɂaluhipan "centipede," see Robert Blust, Austronesian Comparative Dictionary (on line). The earlier English form tripam was borrowed from French (as in L'Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes, tome premier, La Haye, 1774, compiled by Guillaume-Thomas Raynal). The immediate source of the French form is not certain.

First Known Use

1783, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of trepang was in 1783

Dictionary Entries Near trepang

Cite this Entry

“Trepang.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

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