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Why Is Bacon Called Bacon? and Other Favorite Food Name Origins

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It's a little odd to think of the fact that every single word that we say, in any language, has its origins somewhere. From bacon to bread, the name of every single food in existence also got its start somewhere. We rounded up 10 of the most essential foods around, did some digging and tracked down where their names came from.

Click Here to see The Origins of More of Your Favorite Foods

Like most English words in general, the names of most foods are Latin in origin. But that doesn't mean that every word has ancient roots: certain foods, like sandwiches, are named after people. Many foods have roots with the cultures that first brought them to English-speaking countries; foods that were popular with Eastern European Jews, for example, continue to bear monikers similar to the ones bestowed on them centuries ago.

  • 1
    Bacon
    iStockPhoto/Thinkstock
    The word “bacon” actually has a fairly lengthy back story, but the word itself has the same Old French origin as the word “back,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Back bacon is commonly found in England and is comprised of the loin with a small amount of belly attached.
  • 2
    Sandwich
    John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, is largely credited with being this food’s namesake. While eating meat in between two slices of bread was initially more the domain of the lower classes (as a drinking food), the English aristocracy had appropriated it as a late-night snack by the 1700s. While this type of food was originally just called “bread and meat” or “bread and cheese,” the Earl’s friends took a shine to his regular requests for one in order to play cards one-handed, and began to ask the butler for “the same as Sandwich!” And a legend was born. Click Here to see More of the Origins of Your Favorite Foods Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/Thinkstock
  • 3
    Bagel
    By the late 1600s, bagels were one of the most popular foods in the Polish city of Krakow, where they were first invented. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the spelling at the time was bajgiel, from the Yiddish beygl, from the Middle High German böugel, from the Old High German bouc, which meant, not surprisingly, “ring.” Photo Credit: iStockphoto/ Thinkstock
  • 4
    Butter
    The earliest word for butter was the Greek bouturon, meaning “cow cheese.” From there the Romans picked it up and started calling it butyrum, and it’s not too difficult to see how that word became butter. Photo Credit: iStockphoto/ Thinkstock Click Here to see More of the Origins of Your Favorite Foods
  • 5
    Hamburger
    It’s common knowledge that the hamburger was named after the city of Hamburg, Germany. In the 1600s, Hamburg’s port was a main stop for ships coming from Russia, and Russians brought recipes for chopped steak tartare with them to the city. While the cooked patty version became fairly popular in Hamburg, the word hamburger was actually coined by restaurant owners in New York, in order to lure in recent German immigrants looking for a taste of home. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/Thinkstock
  • 6
    French Fries
    While it’s debated as to exactly when folks began taking large quantities of fat and deep-frying sticks of potatoes in it, there’s no debate that it began in Belgium. Belgian cuisine was assimilated into that of neighboring France, and soon enough “french fried potatoes” became popular in the U.S., first appearing in English in 1856. There’s a rumor that “French” actually refers to the way the potatoes are sliced, but the food item actually predated the technique known as ‘frenching.’ The U.S. is one of the only countries that calls them French fries; they’re chips in England, frites in France, and patatas fritas in Spain. Click Here to see More of the Origins of Your Favorite Foods Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/Thinkstock

The culinary world is a living, breathing thing, and new foods are being invented all the time. The current rage is portmanteaux, or the fine art of taking two food names and combining them into a completely new word. Take the Cronut, for example, invented last summer by pastry chef Dominique Ansel. It's an amalgam of the words croissant (which is French for 'crescent') and doughnut, a word which was actually first written down by writer Washington Irving, who described them as "balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat" in his 1809 History of New York (they were most likely closer in resemblance to doughnut holes, which look more or less like "dough nuts").

So next time you're munching away on a bagel, take a second and remember that once upon a time, there was no word for that delicious orb of dough, and some baker thought long and hard before christening it accordingly. Maybe one day, when you're tinkering around in your kitchen at 1 a.m., you too can invent a food that nobody's ever eaten before, and you can invent a food name as well. In that case, we'd suggest brushing up on your Latin.

Read on to learn the origins of 10 of the world's most popular foods.

-Dan Myers, The Daily Meal

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