It’s a little odd to think of the fact that every single word that we say, in any language, has its origins somewhere. From bacon to bread, the name of every single food in existence also got its start somewhere. We rounded up 10 of the most essential foods around, did some digging, and tracked down where their names came from.
Like most English words in general, the names of most foods are Latin in origin. But that doesn’t mean that every word has ancient roots: certain foods, like sandwiches, are named after people. Many foods have roots with the cultures that first brought them to English-speaking countries; foods that were popular with Eastern European Jews, for example, continue to bear monikers similar to the ones bestowed on them centuries ago.
The culinary world is a living, breathing thing, and new foods are being invented all the time. The current rage is portmanteaux, or the fine art of taking two food names and combining them into a completely new word. Take the Cronut, for example, invented last summer by pastry chef Dominique Ansel. It’s an amalgam of the words croissant (which is French for ‘crescent’) and doughnut, a word which was actually first written down by writer Washington Irving, who described them as "balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat” in his 1809 History of New York (they were most likely closer in resemblance to doughnut holes, which look more or less like “dough nuts”).
So next time you’re munching away on a bagel, take a second and remember that once upon a time, there was no word for that delicious orb of dough, and some baker thought long and hard before christening it accordingly. Maybe one day, when you’re tinkering around in your kitchen at 1 a.m., you too can invent a food that nobody’s ever eaten before, and you can invent a food name as well. In that case, we’d suggest brushing up on your Latin.
Read on to learn the origins of 10 of the world’s most popular foods.