The Etymology of Carrots and the Colour Orange

Carrots - Etymology


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Carrot, Daucus and the Colour Orange - Etymology

 

Ancient Greek  → Late Latin   → Middle French   → Old English
Karo, καρώ karōton or καρωτόν  OR

Kera/keras or κερας

karota

carōta

carotte karette

carrot

Note the above refers to the English "carrot" and is just one interpretation.

 

Summary Statement

Carrot - The etymology of Carrot is not absolutely clear, and often fiercely debated in the academic community, mainly between the words "ker" and "kar" as the first etymon. It is petty clear that the English word can be traced back to a word containing k*r. The information provided below attempts to reflect what current dictionaries and etymology sources have to say on the matter. Most interpreations are from educated opinion, conjecture and "best guess". Etymology is often not an exact science!

It is commonly accepted that the term "carrot" was created from the epithet karota, a Latin name for the carrot, which goes back to the Greek Karoton. Many consider that it is the etymon (a word or morpheme from which a later word is derived) of the Greek Kar (louse), which could refer to the shape of the seeds (fruits). According to some etymologits and linguists, also the name Carum, used for caraway, has its origin in Kar.

"Ker" refers has an Indo-European root word *ker- (horn), and straight animal horns can look very similar to a carrot root (e.g.horns of the oryx).  Dioscorides named one type of orange rooted carrot as "staphylinos keras.  Keras is sometimes translated to "domesticated".

The Carrot belongs to the Apiaceae family and the species that is most common is Daucus carota . The Greek word “karoton”- was modified later to the Latin word “karota” and that finally morphed into the French name “carotte”- before it is popularly now known in English as carrot.

Daucus is more simple, that derives from from Ancient Greek δαῦκος (daűkos) , δαῦκον (daűkon, “carrot”) daukos is a very ancient plant name, which appears for the first time at Theophrastus (371–287 B.C.

Orange - The word orange entered Middle English from Old French and Anglo-Norman orenge. First written evidence in English is   from the 13th century and referred to the fruit. The colour name is first recorded in 1502.


1. Karota for the garden Carrot is found first in the writings of Athenaeus (3rd century CE), and in the book on cookery by the Roman Apicius Czclius.  The Athenaeus work called "The Deipnosophistae" (Book IX (Part 1 of 5) , which means "dinner-table". Philosophers recorded that Diphilus said of the carrot "This is pungent, very nourishing and fairly wholesome, with a tendency to loosening and windiness; not easy to digest, very diuretic, calculated to rouse sexual desire; hence by some it is called love-philtre."

Athenaeus also notes that "Staphulinos (carrot) is called astaphilinus by Diocles in the first books of 'Matters on Health'. The so-called karaton (which is big and quickly growing carrots) is more tasty than the staphulinos and more heating, more diuretic, easily digested and wholesome" - Andrew Dalby, in the book "Food in the Ancient World"  summarizes the etymological rootword of carrot as follows: "The carrot is Greek KARO, Latin CAROTA."

In the Herbal (the De Materia Medica) by Pedanius Dioscorides (written in Greek in the first century of the Common Era) it is stated that some call the carrot keras (κερας)  - i.e., the Greek name for ‘horn’. In the Byzantine Codex Vindobonensis (from the early sixth century C.E.) of the Herbal, on folio 312, a detailed picture of an orange carrot appears, which at any rate proves that in Byzantine times, the plant named by Dioscorides was understood to be the carrot. There is a mystery as to why orange carrots did not appear again until the C15th. Possibly the "dark ages" had something to do with it.

Other references state that Dioscorides in the 1st century AD said "Karo [ καρώ ] is a... little seed.; Dioscorides in Greek in a revision date-estimated 3rd-4th century AD said the pastinaca is called καρώτα CAROTA by the Romans. Ancient Latin CAREUM and CAREI are flavourful Apiaceae seeds. The same is in medieval Latin. The Greek KARO is a flavourful Apiaceae seed with an edible root. The word form is also on record in ancient Greek as Karon. Then the inference is made that, the Latin CAREUM and the Greek KARON are carrying the same root word, and this root ord is Kar.  This is possibly a word from the Near East. In Arabic, "qar`a" is a courgette. Perhaps the word Dioscorides mentioned is the caraway?

In AD 512 The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides: Illustrated by a Byzantine A.D. 512. - shows the first reference to Orange Carrot - Dioskorides Codex Vindobonensis Medicus Greacus. (Austrian facsimiles from 1965, together with commentary - studied at the Royal Botanical Gardens Library, Kew Gardens, England). Three "orange carrots" are depicted.  More detail and images in this page of the Carrot Museum .  These were named: The cultivated carrot, the wild carrot and the Cretan carrot.

 

Cultivated and wild carrots from the Juliana Anicia Codex of 512 a.d.

Staphylinos Keras
The cultivated carrot 312r
(Also appears in Codex Neapolitanus - 6thC - NAP 151L)

Staphylinos Agrios 313r
The wild carrot, but appears to be a primitive type of cultivated carrot
(Also appears in Codex Neapolitanus - 6thC - NAP 151R)

Gingidion  88r
The wild carrot (Daucus gingidium).
(Also appears in Codex Neapolitanus - 6thC - NAP 59R)

Karota was simultaneously mentioned in "The Hermeneumata" (Greek: Ἑρμηνεύματα; also known as the Hermeneumata Pseudodositheana or Hermeneumata pseudo-Dositheana), which were anonymous instructional manuals, for schools, written in the third century CE to teach the Greek language to Latin-speaking people in the Roman Empire, and to teach Latin to Greek-speakers. Afterwards they were periodically copied by successive generations of monks.

The Hermeneumata contain (amongst other things) a list of vegetables in Greek and Latin, and they say that the Latin name pastinaca is considered a synonym of the Greek names stafilinos, karota and daukos. They do not tell us what kind of root crops are indicated by these names. (The word Hermeneumata means "translation" or "interpretation".)

It is thought that this word carrot comes from the Greek karoton through the Latin carota It has been known since ancient times and is believed to have originated in Afghanistan and adjacent areas. There is also a school of thought which says that it is derived from ancient Greek for a yellow root, slender leaved parsnip, so called because it was thought to impart a pleasant smell "Carum", or from "karuon" a sweet taste.   (Carum is a genus of about 20 species of flowering plants in the family Apiaceae, native to temperate regions of the Old World, now known to be carraway.)

Galen said that the wild carrot "is less fit to be eaten than the cultivated variety".


2. Carrot - Kar or Ker? - For the purpose of this interpretation the Root Word for current English name “carrot” is considered to be "Kar" or "Ker". There does not appear to be any actual ancient documentation connecting Greek ker- (meaning horn) with Greek & Mediterranean kar/car- (meaning edible aromatic Apiaceae). There is documentation for κάρον and καρώ, from which one can get καρῶτον from well-paralleled Greek grammar alterations.

 It can be argued that deriving carota from the Greek root ker- is semantically unrealistic in conception.  The Carrot Museum does not come to a conclusion for a definitive answer and merely attempts to show the arguments for either word. At the end of the day the current word carrot follows the route Greek-Latin-French-English.  Any further debate is left for academia to pursue.

KAR - One interpretation is that Carota emanates from an ancient Mediterranean root word Kar - meaning aromatic edible seeds in the Apiaceae family. The root word is described by Dioscorides as karo. The root word is named a seed in Columella (1st century AD Latin) where Columella mentions "dry flavourings... such as careum, cumin, fennel seeds, Egyptian anise". The Latin cookery book of Apicius, roughly 1st century AD, has recipes involving carrots e.g.Caroetae Frictea: oenogaro inferuntur - which was fried carrots served with oenogerum.It is believed that the Arabic word karawiyā comes from a Greek and ancient Mediterranean-wide rootword Kar- meaning various Apiaceaes whose seeds were edible -- and the roots of a good few of them were edible too. The Greeks later used the word Karaton, from which one can see linguistically the early origin of the word carrot.

Using "Kar" as the etymon the following path took us from Greek to English, via Latin (Roman) and then French. Kar is also the root word for carotene, which occurs in carrots! Andrew Dalby in Food in the Ancient World (2003) summarizes the etymological root word of carrot as follows: "The carrot is Greek Karo, Latin Carota."

Ancient Greek (up to 1453) Karo (or Karon) καρώ karōton or καρωτόν meaning various Apiaceaes whose seeds and roots were edible. (κάρα is sometimes cited but there is no evidence of a connection - it meant "head" and this in ancient Greek is also in wordform κάρη KÁRE)

Latin Careum and Carei are flavourful Apiaceae seeds. Carota

Middle French Carotte (around 1400)

English Carrot 15th C - Source - https://etymologeek.com/eng/carrot

KER - Some origins refer to “Ker” meaning horn. This would refer to a straight animal horn, which is similar in form to a carrot root. Keratin, from the same root word, it is a key material in the horns of animals (keratin!). There is some compelling academic and etylomological arguments for this derivation. (As discussed in the essay referred to below - Nissan E. (2014) Etymothesis etc.) e.g.in the Herbal (the De Materia Medica) by Pedanius Dioscorides [86] (written in Greek in the first century of the Common Era) it is stated that some call the carrot keras (κερας ´) - i.e., the Greek name for ‘horn’. In the Byzantine Codex Vindobonensis (from the early sixth century C.E.) of the Herbal, on folio 312, a detailed picture of a carrot appears, which at any rate proves that in Byzantine times, the plant named by Dioscorides was understood to be the carrot. (pictures above). If Ker is the root word it is not clear how and when it morphed to kar and then applied to all a kar..... related words and ultimately carrot.

The standard lexicon for Ancient Greek in English is Liddell-Scott-Jones (''LSJ'') and has a detailed entry for κέρας keras here - https://lsj.gr/wiki/%CE%BA%CE%AD%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%82

The word "Ker" as the root word for carrot has strong case, mainly because of the entry in the Dioscorides manuscript. Source - https://etymologeek.com/eng/carrot)

Using "Ker" as the etymon the following path took us from Greek to English, via Latin (Roman) and then French

Ancient Greek (up to 1453) carrot keras (κερας´) as referred to by Discorides in ad 512

Latin Careum and Carei are flavourful Apiaceae seeds. karota, the carota

Middle French Carotte (around 1400)

English Karrette and Carrot 15th C - Source - https://etymologeek.com/eng/carrot

Dictionary entry Language Definition
*ker- Proto-Indo-European Horn Head
κάρᾱ  Ancient Greek (to 1453) Head
κᾰρῶτον Ancient Greek (to 1453) Carrot
karota/carota. Latin (C3rd/4th) Carrot
carotte  (ca. 1400-1600) Middle French (1400-1600) Carrot
karette/carrot English (1600 onwards) Carrot

3. Daucus - From Ancient Greek δαῦκος (daűkos) , δαῦκον (daűkon, “carrot”) daukos is a very ancient plant name, which appears for the first time at Theophrastus (371–287 B.C.

It is believed that it was Galen 2nd century ad who added the name Daucus to Pastinaca to distinguish it ffrom Parsnip (pastinaca sativa) (source Henslow, Origin and History of Garden Vegetables 1912)

It was Galen the Greek physician at the court of Marcus Aurelius (second century A.D.) who named the wild carrot Daucus pastinaca  (adding the name Daucus) to distinguish the Carrot from the Parsnip, though confusion remained steadfast until botanist Linnaeus set the record straight in the 18th century with his system of plant classification. The Greeks called the carrot Philon or Philtron from their word philo that means loving. However, the carrot's Latin name Daucus carota most influenced its present name that came from the French who named it carotte.

From Latin Daucus (Pliny) (also daucum)

Middle English dauke (c1450 Agnus Castus (Bod 483)149/20 : dauke, vr. drawke, [Stockh: Daucus asininus is an herbe ţat me clepe bryddys neste or tauke].

English -  Carrot 15th C - Source - https://etymologeek.com/eng/carrot


4. Orange - Separate page in the Carrot Museum - First Depictions & Etymology of Orange Carrots - here

The word orange entered Middle English from Old French and Anglo-Norman orenge. It is generally thought that Old French borrowed the Italian melarancio ("fruit of the orange tree", with mela "fruit") as pume orenge (with pume "fruit"). Although pume orenge is attested earlier than melarancio in available written sources, lexicographers believe that the Italian word is actually older. The word ultimately derives from a Dravidian language—possibly Telugu naarinja or Malayalam naaranga or Tamil nāram—via Sanskrit nāraṅgaḥ "orange tree", with borrowings through Persian nārang and Arabic nāranj.

Several colours of carrots have existed for over a thousand years. There was no word in the English language before1500 for the colour we now know as orange.  One problem which exists is that it is difficult to determine when the term "orange" as a descriptor of a colour in general, first appeared in the English language. Carrots were actually orange for many hundreds of years before they were recognised by the name "orange" in the 1500's. Before that they were described as "light red" or "deep yellow".

Orange is the definition of a colour between red and yellow. What this etymology tells us is that the colour was named after the fruit, and not the other way around. If you go back far enough in the literature, you can find really weird passages like one from Canterbury Tales where Chaucer describes someone's complexion as being 'between a red and a yellow.'

An academic description of the evolution of the word "orange" -

The word “orange” comes originally from one of the Dravidian languages, either Tamil నారింజ nārija, or Malayalam നാരങ്ങ nāraŋŋa.This was borrowed into Sanskrit as नारङ्ग nāraga, or "orange tree". From there the word entered Persian نارنگ nārang and then Arabic نارنج nāranj. From there, certain varieties of Arabic rebracketed the initial ‘n’, or reinterpreted that ‘n’ as if it had always been part of an initial article or preposition, giving some kind of dialectical āranj.

It was most likely from these Arabic dialects that the word jumped through the Genoese and Venetian trading networks into Italian as melarancio, or mela arancio where ‘mela’ is Italian for fruit. From there, Old French picked up the word as pume orenge, where ‘pume’ is fruit. Orenge then moved into Anglo-Norman, and eventually into Middle English as our familiar orange.


Hex colour #ed9121 (sRGBB (r, g, b) (237, 145, 33) CMYKH (c, m, y, k) (0, 39, 86, 7) is commonly known by the name "Carrot orange". Simple colour categorization labels this colour as "orange". When huHex Colour Carrotmans think of orange in brand logos or product advertising, they typically think of the some of the following attributes: excitement and enthusiasm, having confidence, being centrally-located, playgrounds or fun environments, and health care.

The colour is usually never associated with finance and wealth. Creative Commons, and 10 others are using a colour close to Carrot orange in their branding. More about the orange carrot on this page.

The earliest recorded use of the word in English is from the 13th century and referred to the fruit. The first recorded use of orange as a colour name in English was in 1502, in a description of clothing purchased for Margaret Tudor. Other sources cite the first recorded use as 1512, in a will now filed with the Public Record Office. It is generally thought that Old French borrowed the Italian melarancio ("fruit of the orange tree", with mela "fruit") as pume orenge (with pume "fruit").[7][8] Although pume orenge is attested earlier than melarancio in available written sources, lexicographers believe that the Italian word is actually older.

(References: (1) St. Clair, Kassia (2016). The Secret Lives of Colour. London: John Murray. p. 88. ISBN 9781473630819. OCLC 936144129. (2) Salisbury, Deb (2009). Elephant's Breath & London Smoke: Historical Colour Names, Definitions & Uses. Five Rivers. (3) "orange colour – orange color, n. (and adj.)". Oxford English Dictionary. OED. Retrieved 19 April 2011.)

The 1551 edition of the "Libro de Agricultura" by Gabriel Alonso de Herrera records the "colour of oranges" to describe carrots.

One of the first written evidences of an orange carrot, particularly written in English (and therefore cannot be misinterpreted during translation) is Hortus Medicus Edinburgensis - A Catalogue of plants in the Physical Garden at Edinburgh by James Sutherland intendent of said garden in 1683. 

This work makes reference to Orange, Red, Yellow and White carrots, together with the common Wild Carrot. It and also distinguishes them from Parsnip as a separate plant. See extract here). This is a very useful record as it shows what actually existed in the botanic garden in Edinburgh.


 Some other reference material -

Some Etymological Notes on Gk. ΣΤΑΦΥΑΙΝΟΣ 'carrot' Author(s): John A. C. Greppin Source: Glotta , 1986, 64. Bd., 3./4. H. (1986), pp. 248-252 Published by: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (GmbH & Co. KG) Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40266760

Ephraim Nissan, “Etymothesis, Fallacy, and Ontologies: An Illustration from Phytonymy”. In Nachum Dershowitz and Ephraim Nissan (eds.), Language, Culture, Computation: Essays Dedicated to Yaacov Choueka. Vol. 3: Computational Linguistics and Linguistics. LNCS, vol. 8003. Springer Verlag (Heidelberg), 2014, pp. 207–364 (155 pages).      https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-45327-4_10;  

Dalby, A. 2003. Food in the Ancient World from A to Z. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, London and New York. p.75

New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, year 1893, which is online at https://archive.org/stream/oed02arch#page/134/mode/1up


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