Comments on "hesperidium"

[Hide] original entry

I discovered recently that a fruit with the same sort of structure as, e.g., an orange is called a hesperidium.

Why that curiously beautiful word? Well, you see, Greek mythology features the golden apples of the Hesperides, and oranges look kinda like apples but are kinda-sorta golden in colour.

(The Hesperides are the nymphs of the West, the land of the evening (hesperos); presumably the similarity to the Latin equivalent Vesper is no coincidence, but I know no more.)

On 2011-06-28 at 10:01:42, Mr A Writinghawk said:

I seem to recall that the 1901 Chambers I once had defined an orange as 'a delightful golden fruit', but disappointingly the one currently on my bookshelf (2003) calls it 'a reddish-yellow fruit'. Despite the mention of red and yellow all the colour has somehow leeched out of the definition in the intervening hundred years.

The etymology is interesting and also gold-tinged. It ultimately derives from Arabic nãranj, via late Latin and assorted Romance languages. 'The loss of the n may be due to confusion with the indefinite article (una, une), the vowel changes to confusion with L aurum, Fr or, gold.'

On 2011-06-28 at 10:03:08, Mr A Writinghawk said:

(That's a-macron, by the way, i.e. a long a, but there doesn't seem to be an HTML entity for that. Perhaps I should have said naaranj.)

On 2011-06-29 at 00:47:07, g said:

Yes, the story of "orange" is delightful. "Apron" is the same (a napron), and "newt" is the reverse (an ewt).

In Portuguese, "orange" is "laranja": it has (as in English, French, Spanish, etc.) lost an indefinite article that it never really had, and (uniquely) gained another that its host language now lacks (it's "a" rather than "la" in modern Portuguese).

Surely you mean "leached". (I wouldn't remark on that if we weren't talking about etymological drift...)

Post a comment:

Name:(will be shown with comment)
Email:(will be kept private)
Web page:(optional; will be linked from your name)
Secret word:(the secret word is two plus two)

You may use Markdown to format your comment, or just include HTML tags. All comments are moderated, so don't waste your time trying to abuse this.