It seems like a strange word for cactus, (hermit palm??) Is there a cultural background to this?
1This spelling/word is inherited from Chinese. This might be a question for their StackExchange instead.– jogloranJan 22 at 1:55
The Japanese Wikipedia article explains that the spelling 仙人掌 first appears in a Chinese text in 1688. The Wiktionary entry is based on the Nihon Kokugo Dai Jiten entry, which traces this term in Japanese back to roughly 1764. (Full disclosure: I helped build out that Wiktionary entry.)– Eiríkr ÚtlendiJan 22 at 6:23
A different edition of the NKDJ suggests that the word might be from Spanish sapoten, but the Royal Academia Español dictionary includes no such word. That same edition of the NKDJ also suggests that Japanese saboten might be from Portuguese sabão ("soap") + Japanese 手【て】 ("hand", here presumably in the more idiomatic sense of "means for getting something done").– Eiríkr ÚtlendiJan 22 at 6:26