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onion (n.)

early 12c., ungeon, oinyon, unione, "the underground bulb of the common onion plant," from Anglo-French union, Old French oignon "onion" (formerly also oingnon), and directly from Latin unionem (nominative unio), a colloquial rustic Roman word for a kind of onion, also "pearl" (via the notion of a string of onions), literally "one, unity." The sense connection is the unity of the successive layers of an onion, in contrast with garlic or cloves.

Old English had ynne (in ynne-leac), from the same Latin source, which also produced Irish inniun, Welsh wynwyn and similar words in Germanic. In Dutch, the ending in -n was mistaken for a plural inflection and new singular ui formed. The usual Indo-European name is represented by Greek kromion, Irish crem, Welsh craf, Old English hramsa, Lithuanian kermušė.

The usual Latin word was cepa, a loan from an unknown language; it is the source of Old French cive, Old English cipe, and, via Late Latin diminutive cepulla, Italian cipolla, Spanish cebolla, Polish cebula. German Zwiebel also is from this source, but altered by folk etymology in Old High German (zwibolla) from words for "two" and "ball."

Onion-ring "circular segment of an onion" (especially battered and deep-fried) is attested by 1904. Onion-dome on a church-tower, etc., is attested by 1950, so called for the resemblance of shape; onion-grass, which forms tuberous nodes in its roots (also onion-couch) is from 1823; onion-skin as a type of paper (so called for its thinness, transparency, and finish, which resemble the skin of an onion) is from 1879.

Onions, the surname, is attested from mid-12c. (Ennian), from Old Welsh Enniaun, ultimately from Latin Annianus, which was associated with Welsh einion "anvil."

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oniony (adj.)

"tasting or smelling of onions," 1801, from onion + -y (2). Related: Onioniness.

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chive (n.)

common name of an edible herb closely related to garlic, c. 1400, from Old North French chive (Old French, Modern French cive, 13c.), from Latin cepa "onion" (see onion).

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bulb (n.)

1560s, "an onion," from French bulbe (15c.), from Latin bulbus "bulb, bulbous root, onion," from Greek bolbos "plant with round swelling on underground stem." Extended 1660s to "spherical underground part of an onion, lily, etc." Expanded by 1800 to "swelling in a glass tube" (thermometer bulb, light bulb, etc.).

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scallion (n.)
late 14c., scalun "kind of onion," also "thing of little value," from Anglo-French escalone, Old North French escalogne, or Old French eschaloigne, all from Vulgar Latin *escalonia, from Latin (cæpa) Ascalonia "(onion) from Ascalon," seaport in southwestern Levant (modern Ashkelon in Israel). Cognate with shallot.
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leek (n.)
pungent bulbous culinary herb of the genus Allium, related to the onion, long the national badge of the Welsh, Old English læc (Mercian), leac (West Saxon) "leek, onion, garlic," from Proto-Germanic *lauka- (source also of Old Norse laukr "leek, garlic," Danish løg, Swedish lök "onion," Old Saxon lok "leek," Middle Dutch looc, Dutch look "leek, garlic," Old High German louh, German Lauch "leek"). No certain cognates outside Germanic; Finnish laukka, Russian luk-, Old Church Slavonic luku are said to be from Germanic. Also the final element in garlic.
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shallot (n.)

"small onion," 1660s, shortened from eschalot, from French échalote, from French eschalotte, from Old French eschaloigne, from Vulgar Latin *escalonia (see scallion).

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bialy (n.)
bagel with onion flakes sprinkled on it, by 1936, ultimately short for Białystok, city in modern Poland. The city is named for the Biała river (literally White River), that flows past it, from Polish biały "white" + stok "slope."
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garlic (n.)

"onion like bulbous plant allied to the leek, known to the ancients and much used in cookery," Middle English garlek, from Old English garlec (West Saxon), garleac (Mercian), "garlic," from gar "spear" (in reference to the clove), see gar, + leac "leek" (see leek). Garlic-bread is attested by 1947.

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Chicago (n.)

town founded in 1833, named from a Canadian French form of an Algonquian word, either Fox /sheka:ko:heki/ "place of the wild onion," or Ojibwa shika:konk "at the skunk place" (sometimes rendered "place of the bad smell"). The Ojibwa "skunk" word is distantly related to the New England Algonquian word that yielded Modern English skunk (n.). Related: Chicagoan (1847; Chicagoian is from 1859).

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