The name Kerala has an uncertain etymology. Keralam may
stem from the Classical Tamil chera-alam ("declivity of a hill or a
mountain slope") or chera alam ("Land of the Cheras"). Kerala may
represent an imperfect Malayalam portmanteau fusing kera ("coconut palm
tree") and alam ("land" or "location"). Natives of Kerala , known as
Malayalis or Keralites , refer to their land as Keralam .
A 3rd-century-BC Asokan rock inscription mentioning a state or people
called " Keralaputra " is the earliest surviving attestation to the name
Kerala . In written records, Kerala was mentioned in the Sanskrit epic
Aitareya Aranyaka. Additionally, Katyayana, Patanjali, Pliny the Elder,
and the unknown author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea displayed
familiarity with Kerala . In the last centuries BC, the region became famous
among the Greeks and Romans for its spices, particularly black pepper.