Word mysteries are where words in languages that I know don’t correspond to each other at all despite those languages often sharing lexical histories. These words are both mystifying (why are they different?) and annoying (why must you be different?!).
Today, inspired by an email I got promoting the Gap’s Pierre Lapin line of clothes (so much cuter in French!), we’re going to look at one of Peter Rabbit’s favorite snacks, that long orange root vegetable he was always stealing from Mr. McGregor’s garden.
CAT pastanaga [pahs-tah-nah-gah] — Interestingly, Catalan has the sole Latin-based word today, from pastĭnāca which seems to have been “root-looking” vegetable as parsnips shared the same name.
EN carrot — Very boring. Late 15th century from French carotte, from Greek karōton.
ES zanahoria [thah-nah-oh-reeah] — This one is really cool. An Arabic loanword* which became safunnárya in Spanish. The Moors are perhaps better known for their time in southern Italy, but they set up camp in Spain in 711 and stayed for 700 years, changing everything about Spanish life forever. Almost every Spanish word beginning with al- comes from the Arabic definite article “the” and some will surely show up here in the future.
Stay tuned to this space for our next…. Word Mystery!
*Loanwords are words borrowed from one language and adopted into another.