Obscure food etymology

As consciousness about food and food culture increases, so do the number of neologisms.  These rely on a shared familiarity with the base terms.  Locavore, for example, depends on the base “-vore,” which we recognize from the terms herbivore and carnivore.  -Vore is derived from the Latin word vorare, to devour. Likewise, we may make up words that end in -arian–a vegetarian that dislikes vegetables might be a called “bageltarian”–even though -arian is not originally a food term (it indicates a believer or advocate of something).  Philadelphia used to be fond of the term and type “gastropub”: I’m personally not so fond of words that use “gastro,” as the direct reference to a stomach strikes me as less than poetic, but I suppose the word has been elevated from its use by noted food theorist Brillat Savarin.

But my Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day subscription has given me a handful of food words that I’d never heard of, and couldn’t trace to a familiar root.  I present these for those who, like me, like to collect linguistic oddities.

  • Abligurition
    Noun. Prodigal expense for food and/or drink.
    This one is a bit of a tongue twister–appropriately, since it comes in part from the Latin term for licking (lingere). Lingurire means to be dainty about the business of eating;ab, naturally, suggests the opposite of that!
  • Acatry
    Noun. Provisions purchased for a house, or the room where such provisions were kept.
    It comes from an old French term for a place to buy provisions–achaterie–so it may not surprise you to note that this term was most often ysed to describe the provisions or pantry for an English royal household.
  • Analects
    Noun (obsolete).  Discarded fragments of food, esp. those gathered after a meal; morsels, scraps, crumbs.
    Latin analecta referred to a slave who picked up crumbs after a meal; the Latin was derived from an older Greek term for gleaning. Now the English term is used more often, if ever, to refer to a collection of literary extracts or gleanings.
  • Eculent
    Noun or adjective. Something edible, especially a vegetable.
    “The remainder of the garden presented a well-selected assortment of esculent  vegetables, in a praiseworthy state of advancement.”– Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables. Supposedly this word comes from a Latin word for food, esca.

English is a veritable salad of a language, isn’t it? I imagine there will be more such posts to come.


4 responses to “Obscure food etymology

  1. Just adding your name and website name to the bibliography of inspo for my masters dissertation! Will keep coming back here for more after I hand it in too. Thank you. Thinking of starting my own blog one day!

    • Thank you for sharing, Josie! Best of luck with the master’s. If you do start that blog (or substack or whatever the kids are doing these days), feel free to drop me a link. I don’t update much now that my own dissertation is finished but I do a link roundup now and then.

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