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The word "Penguin" first appears in the 16th century as a synonym for Great Auk.It may be derived from the Welsh pen gwyn "white head", although the etymology is debated. When European explorers discovered what are today known as penguins in the Southern Hemisphere, they noticed their similar appearance to the Great Auk of the northern hemisphere, and named them after this bird, although they are not related.
The etymology of the word "penguin" is still debated. The English word is not apparently of French, nor of Bretonor Spanishorigin (both attributed to the French word pingouin "auk"), but first appears in English or Dutch.