"thick, flat bread," 1951, from Modern Hebrew pita or Modern Greek petta "bread," which is perhaps from Greek peptos "cooked," or from Gothic *bita- "bite, morsel," from Proto-Germanic *biton- (see bit (n.1)).
Entries linking to pita
"small piece," c. 1200; related Old English bite "act of biting," and bita "piece bitten off," which probably are the source of the modern words meaning "boring-piece of a drill" (the "biting" part, 1590s), "mouthpiece of a horse's bridle" (mid-14c.), and "a piece (of food) bitten off, morsel" (c. 1000). All from Proto-Germanic *biton (source also of Old Saxon biti, Old Norse bit, Old Frisian bite, Middle Dutch bete, Old High German bizzo "biting," German Bissen "a bite, morsel"), from PIE root *bheid- "to split."
Meaning "small piece, fragment" of anything is from c. 1600. Sense of "short space of time" is 1650s. Theatrical bit part is from 1909. Money sense "small coin" in two bits, etc. is originally from the U.S. South and the West Indies, in reference to silver wedges cut or stamped from Spanish dollars (later Mexican reals); transferred to "eighth of a dollar."
It forms all or part of: abet; bait (n.) "food used to attract prey;" bait (v.) "to torment, persecute;" bateau; beetle (n.1) "type of insect; bit (n.1) "small piece;" bite; bitter; bitter end; boat; boatswain; -fid; fissile; fission; fissure; giblets; pita; pizza; vent (n.).
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit bhinadmi "I cleave," Latin Latin findere "to split, cleave, separate, divide," Old High German bizzan "to bite," Old English bita "a piece bitten off, morsel," Old Norse beita "to hunt with dogs," beita "pasture, food."
"a savoury dish of Italian origin, consisting of a base of dough, spread with a selection of such ingredients as olives, tomatoes, cheese, anchovies, etc., and baked in a very hot oven" [OED], 1931, from Italian pizza, originally "cake, tart, pie," a name of uncertain origin. The 1907 "Vocabolario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana" reports it is said to be from dialectal pinza "clamp" (from Latin pinsere "to pound, stamp"). Klein suggests a connection with Medieval Greek pitta "cake, pie" (see pita). Watkins says it is (perhaps via Langobardic) from a Germanic source akin to Old High German bizzo, pizzo "bite, morsel," from Proto-Germanic *biton- (see bit (n.1)). Ayto ["Diner's Dictionary"] seems inclined toward this explanation, too.
The notion of taking a flat piece of bread dough and baking it with a savoury topping is a widespread one and of long standing — the Armenians claim to have invented it, and certainly it was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans — but it is Italy, and particularly Naples, that has given its version of the dish to the world. ... Since then it has undergone a series of metamorphoses in base, topping, and general character that would make it hard for Neapolitans to recognize as their own, but which have transformed it into a key item on the international fast-food menu. [Ayto]
A pizza is manufactured, as far as I can ascertain, by garnishing a slab of reinforced asphalt paving with mucilage, whale-blubber and the skeletons of small fishes, baking same to the consistency of a rubber heel, and serving piping-hot with a dressing of molten lava. ["Simon Stylites," in The Bergen Evening Record, May 15, 1931]
updated on April 23, 2017