When the New World was discovered by Europeans, many of the foodstuffs from the Americas were imported to a Europe hungry for novelties. However, for some strange reason, nobody (at first) knew the origin of the turkey (Meleagris gallopavo).

As a consequence of this state of confusion, most European languages have a completely unique name for the turkey, reflecting the supposed origin of this useful new domesticated fowl:

The English, as may be inferred from the name, thought that the new species came from Asia Minor, specifically Turkey. This is an excusable error, since many new species of plant and animal (most notably tulips) were in the process of being introduced to Europe from that region.

The French, apparently, believed the origin to be somewhat further afield, but still from a region known for producing new delicacies: they named the new species dinde, derived from the French phrase meaning "from India".

Speakers of my native language, Danish, accepted the French view, and dubbed the critter a kalkun (derived from the name of the Indian city of Calicut).

Why didn't anybody realise the true origin? Well, one explanation may be that the turkey is mostly native to North America (barring a single subspecies in Central America), and European colonisation of that continent was a fairly late thing, compared to contact with Asia, and colonisation of South and Central America and the Caribbean islands. Possibly the people of Europe had simply had more time to familiarise themselves with exotic foodstuffs from the East, and were more used to new delicacies from that corner of the world.

Whatever the reason, the word for turkey is one of the most confusing and unique differences between the major European languages.