7 mouth-watering foodie words with roots in other languages

It’s a very magical time here at Collins Dictionaries, as a number of brand-new words enter our hallowed pages. As we were browsing the new words, two stood out for their foodie credentials: ‘bean-to-cup’, denoting the complete process for marketing coffee from whole coffee beans; and ‘sofrito’, a seasoned mixture of fried vegetables often used as the base for dishes in Mediterranean and Caribbean cookery.

This sparked an idea: how many foodie words have made their way into English vocabulary that came from international cuisine? Whether you’re devoted to doppio or mad about mango, we’ve explored foodie words in the Collins Dictionary with origins in other languages to tease your tastebuds.

Espresso

There have been many disagreements over how to correctly pronounce ‘espresso’ (are you team ‘ex’ or team ‘es’?) but one undeniable truth is the origin of this delightful beverage. An espresso is made by forcing steam or boiling water through ground coffee and is particularly popular in its birthplace of Italy, where it first appeared in the 20th century. The original Italian literally means ‘pressed coffee’ (caffè espresso).

Spaghetti

Another borrowed word from Italian, spaghetti is a familiar favourite in English. Some like it with meat, some prefer veg, but the root of ‘spaghetti’ as a noun is less about the topping and more about the pasta itself. First appearing around 1849 in a modern cookbook, the word is the plural of ‘spaghetto’, which means ‘string’ or ‘twine’ in Italian.

Terroir

No, we didn’t spell ‘terror’ incorrectly. If you’re fond of wine, terroir is a concept in winemaking which is used to describe the combination of factors – the soil, the climate, the environment – which gives certain wines their distinctive character. Its usage goes as far back as the 18th century and in its native French, it literally means ‘soil’.

Tostada

Another delicious tidbit for our word list is ‘tostada’ (or ‘tostado’), a crispy deep-fried tortilla topped with meat, refried beans, and cheese. Those of you familiar with Latin languages may have guessed, based on the ending of the noun, that this word is derived from Spanish, and is translated as ‘toasted’ in English.

Latte

Back into the land of Italian coffees we go, this time with UK’s most popular coffee choice, according to a 2018 survey. The milky caffè latte, otherwise known simply as a latte, is a coffee made with hot milk, typically steamed. ‘Latte’ appeared much later in common usage than some of its caffeinated counterparts, with ‘caffè latte’ appearing around the 1990s, literally meaning ‘coffee with milk’.

Mango

Given that England isn’t exactly the perfect climate for growing rich, sweet fruit, there are many lingual imports in the fruit family. One of our favourites is mango, a large, sweet, yellowish fruit, thought to have originated in the foothills of the Himalayas over 5,000 years ago. Interestingly, the word ‘mango’ has its roots in Tamil, and it’s thought it made its way into English by the 16th century via Malayan and Portuguese.  

Pomegranate

A ruby-red fruit whose tiny juicy seeds are as tasty in yoghurt as they are on salads, pomegranates have long been associated with Spanish royalty and Granada, the city which bears the same name. But looking into the etymology, it seems to come from the Old French ‘pome grenate’, which itself comes from Latin ‘grānātus’, meaning ‘full of seeds’. The same etymology also gives us the word ‘garnet’, named for the precious stone’s resemblance to pomegranate seeds. It has a long history of usage, first appearing in the 14th century.

Interested in reading about more of the new words in the Collins Dictionary? Here is a selection of the latest word updates.

By Rachel Quin
Rachel Quin is a freelance marketer and copywriter with a love of language, books and cats.

All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.

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