Friday, January 24, 2014

Portuguese Loanwords: Part 2

In our last post, we took a look at some Portuguese animal terminology that has made its way into popular use in the English lexicon. Today we're continuing on with more interesting vocabulary, this time primarily focusing on food terms.

Coconut - It should come as no surprise that the word coconut comes from a combination of the words coco and nut. However, we doubt you knew that the Portuguese and Spanish term coco originally meant "grinning face", in reference to the three indentations on coconut shells that vaguely resemble a human face. It has been claimed that the name came from Portuguese explorers in India who first brought the food to Europe.

The middle coconut's three indentations look more like
a surprised face than a grinning face in our opinion.
Fetish - This is obviously not a food term, but we couldn't resist adding it to our list. It comes from the Portuguese word feitiço, meaning "charm" or "sorcery", interestingly enough.

Marmalade - Getting back to food, this type of fruit preserve made its way into English from either the Portuguese word marmelada or the French marmelade. The name actually refers to the fruit it is made of, the quince, known by the name marmelo in Portuguese.

Molasses - This syrupy sugar by-product also known as "treacle" to Brits gets its name from the Portuguese word melaço. It originated in Latin as melacceus, which means "resembling honey".

Tapioca - This starch extracted from cassava made its way into the English language from an identical term in both Portuguese and Spanish. It likely originated as the word tipioca in the Tupí language of Brazil, meaning "juice of a pressed cassava". 

Vindaloo - This popular spicy Indian curry dish gets its name from the Portuguese term vin d'alho, which literally translates as "wine and garlic". It refers to a wine and garlic sauce added to a dish with meat, usually pork. However, the popular Anglo-Indian version of the dish served today is generally made using a marinade of vinegar, sugar, fresh ginger, and other spices.

Are there any great Portuguese loanwords that we left out of our list? Let us know in the comments below, and please include a definition.