Thursday, December 20, 2018

Language of Confusion: Baked Goods

This will probably be the last real etymology post of the year. Enjoy it!

Pie showed up in the mid fourteenth century, or maybe even older than that because in the twelfth century there was a thing called a piehus that meant bakery. It comes from the Medieval Latin pie, which was meat or fish enclosed in a pastry instead of delicious baked fruit. It might be related to the Medieval Latin pia, which meant pie or pastry, but you know how words can be weirdly not related at times. It also might be related to pica, which means… magpie. Which was once just called pie in English. So that answers that question that no one thought to ask.

Cookie showed up in the early eighteenth century from Scottish, but back then it meant a plain bun and it’s not actually sure that it’s related to what we know as a cookie. It wasn’t that until 1808, and that was actually taken from the Dutch koekje, little cake, which is from koke, their word for cake. Speaking of which…

Cake showed up in the early thirteenth century meaning flat or thin baked dough and replacing the Old English word for cake, coecel. It comes from the Old Norse kaka and West Germanic kokon- (which is where the above mentioned koke comes from). It was once thought that it was related to the classical Latin coquere, to cook, but they no longer believe that anymore. Don’t ask me why.

Pudding showed up in the fourteenth century meaning, get this, a kind of sausage. We didn’t use it to mean a pudding like we know it until 1670, when it started to mean other foods that were “boiled or steamed in a bag or sack”. Which sounds pretty nasty to me. Pudding might be from the West Germanic pud-, to swell, or the Old French boudin, sausage, but it’s another one that no one is really sure about.

Fun fact, in the sixteenth century brownie meant a “benevolent goblin supposed to haunt old farmhouses in Scotland”. It wasn’t until 1897 that it actually meant a brownie. We don’t have a real explanation as to why, but I’m assuming it’s because it’s brown.

Obviously there’s a lot more besides these, but they’ll have to wait for another time. Go list your favorite delicious baked good in the comments!

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. They still call those goblins "brownies". (I've been reading a little too much fantasy...).

    I wonder why they call cookies "biscuits" and dessert "pudding" in the UK...

  2. Pudding is weird.
    Boiled cake? Of course, maybe that makes sense in England.

  3. This changes the way I will view those.

    My f-i-l loved blood pudding.

  4. I've never liked those boil-in-a-bag puddings. They're so frightfully English. Give me a cake or a pie any day!

  5. The pudding one is interesting. It's been through quite a bit of evolution!


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