Thursday, 16 February 2012

origin of the word orange

Sheridan Rogers' book, The Cook's Garden is a great read, especially for the Australian gardener. As the blurb says, 'Where would the cook be without the garden?' I would also say, 'Where would the gardener be without some guidance about what to do with the harvest?'

It's such a well-written book that I actually read it from page one to page 297, instead of browsing it as I originally intended.

I don't grow oranges, but I was interested to read Rogers' etymology of this name.

She writes:
According to Jane Grigson, in her Fruit Book, the word itself goes back to Dravidian India, narayam meaning 'perfume within'. The Arabs took it from the Persians as narandj, Italians softened it to arancia and in medieval France arancia slipped into 'orange' because the town of Orange was a great centre for the fruit.
I find the evolution of words fascinating, so I had a look around the internet to see what others are saying.

The Online Etymology Dictionary has a similar early history for the word, but says:
Loss of initial n- probably due to confusion with definite article (e.g. une narange, una narancia), but perhaps influenced by Fr. or "gold."
It seems people don't agree where the modern word came from, though I would lean towards the migration of the letter 'n' because this happens so frequently, as in the loss of the 'n' in napron to become apron.

However, in the interest of fairness, I investigated the origin of the name of the town of Orange. Whew! That was tricky. There are so many towns with this name. One of them, here in Australia, was named after the Prince of Orange, so that explains why all sorts of fruit other than oranges are grown there. The town in France acquired its name from the old Roman word Arausio. which Wikipedia says came from the name of a Celtic water god.

Somewhere in all this to-ing and fro-ing around the internet I read that in Old English there was simply a word 'red-yellow' , until the word for the fruit arrived in Britain. All references I came across, such as this one, quote the Old English word as geoluhread, but I couldn't find an actual reference for this. However, the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins says,* ' The name of the orange, first recorded in English in medieval times, goes back through Arabic to Persian, although the native home of the fruit may have been southeast Asia' so this seems to fit with what the other sites say.

And at last I came across a really interesting post about the history of many color words and it agreed with the idea that the town's name influenced the fruit's name.
The colour orange derives originally from the Sanskrit word narangah for the fruit, whose name moved westwards through Persian narang and Arabic naranj to Spanish (the Arabs imported it into Europe via Moorish Spain in medieval times); in French it became corrupted to orange, in part by the process called metanalysis but also through being strongly influenced by the name of the town of Orange in south-eastern France which used to be a centre of the orange trade.
All very interesting - to me, at least, lol.

*"orange" Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins. by Julia Cresswell. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Melbourne Library Service. 16 February 2012

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