c. 1300, hunisuccle "clover, red clover;" c. 1400 in reference to the common climbing vine with abundant fragrant flowers; diminutive of Middle English honeysouke, hunisuge (c. 1300), from Old English hunigsuge, meaning perhaps honeysuckle, clover, wild thyme, or privet, literally "honey-suck" (see honey (n.) + suck) + diminutive suffix -el (2). So called because "honey" can be sucked from it (by bees or persons). In Middle English sometimes a confused rendering of Latin locusta, taken as the name of a plant eaten by St. John the Baptist in the wilderness, thence "a locust."
So eet Baptist eerbis and hony. Sum men seien þat locusta is a litil beest good to ete; Sum seien it is an herbe þat gederiþ hony upon him; but it is licli þat it is an herbe þat mai nurishe men, þat þei clepen hony soukil, but þis þing varieþ in many contrees. ["Wycliffite Sermons," c. 1425]
updated on September 25, 2018