Ufff… In the german version at palikanon.com they call it “Judasbaum” (“Judas tree”) (SN 35.204 Tr.: W.Geiger/Nyanaponika). That made a complete absurde imagination in me (which I always blocked) - and now I see such nice pictures… Translating is sometimes a very difficult job, one can understand…
I am hesitating between “Palasabaum” and “Lackbaum”—the latter is referring to an insect that feeds on this tree. In German I don’t find a nice name that sounds mysterious though (but maybe the name “Kinobaum” is alluding to kiṁsuka?).
Thanks for the interesting post, Bhante!
Just wanted to add that the name is ‘kiṃśuka’ in Sanskrit, meaning ‘what-a parrot?’. The red flower of the tree looks like the beak of a parrot - and this is explicitly referred to in the Sanskrit poem ‘Ritusamhara’ attributed to poet Kalidasa(as a work from his youth) : Chap 6, verse 20 - kiṃ kiṃśukaiḥ śukamukha-cchavibhir na bhinnam (‘Are not their hearts torn by the kimsuka flowers which are like parrot beaks?’)
The similarity of its flowers to meat is the theme of a humorous poem at Vism 196,5–15 (Ppn 6:91–92), about a jackal who chanced upon a kimsuka and rejoiced at finding “a meat-bearing tree".
Hang on, you’re right. I had assumed it was kiṁ + su + ka, where su is an interrogative particle. Constructions like kaṁ su, kiṁ su and the like are common. But yes, it should be kiṁ suka “what parrot”, along the lines of kinnarī “what lady?” (a kind of fairy).
Ven Bodhi also gets this wrong:
Kimsuka means literally “what’s it?” The name may have originated from an ancient Indian folk riddle.
Given this, I should probably translate it with the common name of “parrot tree”. This would also work in terms of the pun, as it’s a tree that looks like parrots!
Also, I had previously used the modern Hindi word palash for this tree when it is called palāsa in Pali. But I notice that sources say the tree is associated with Agni, and that the word palāsa especially refers to the flame-like flowers. So i’ll use: