ginger: [OE] Few foodstuffs can have been as exhaustively etymologized as ginger – Professor Alan Ross, for instance, begetter of the U/non-U distinction, wrote an entire 74-page monograph on the history of the word in 1952. And deservedly so, for its ancestry is extraordinarily complex. Its ultimate source was Sanskrit śrngavēram, a compound formed from śrngam ‘horn’ and vẽra- ‘body’; the term was applied to ‘ginger’ because of the shape of its edible root.
This passed via Prakrit singabēra and Greek ziggíberis into Latin as zinziberi. In postclassical times the Latin form developed to gingiber or gingiver, which Old English borrowed as gingifer. English reborrowed the word in the 13th century from Old French gingivre, which combined with the descendant of the Old English form to produce Middle English gingivere – whence modern English ginger.
Its verbal use, as in ‘ginger up’, appears to come from the practice of putting a piece of ginger into a lazy horse’s anus to make it buck its ideas up.
mid-14c., from Old English gingifer, gingiber, from Late Latin gingiber, from Latin zingiberi, from Greek zingiberis, from Prakrit (Middle Indic) singabera, from Sanskrit srngaveram, from srngam "horn" + vera- "body," so called from the shape of its root. But this may be Sanskrit folk etymology, and the word may be from an ancient Dravidian word that also produced the Malayalam name for the spice, inchi-ver, from inchi "root."
The word apparently was readopted in Middle English from Old French gingibre (12c., Modern French gingembre). In reference to coloring, by 1785 of fighting cocks, 1885 of persons (gingery with reference to hair is from 1852). Meaning "spirit, spunk, temper" is from 1843, American English (see gin (v.1)). Ginger-ale is recorded by 1822, the term adopted by manufacturers to distinguish their product from ginger beer (1809), which was sometimes fermented. Ginger-snap as a type of hard cookie flavored with ginger is from 1855, American English.