KABANA.

An Australian of my acquaintance mentioned liking cheese and kabana rolls, and when I discovered that a kabana is “a spicy smoked Australian salami, made from pork and beef,” my first reaction was “Hey, that sounds good!” My second, of course, was “Where is that word from?” Investigation turned up two similar-sounding sausages, cabanossi (Italian) and kabanos (Polish); the k- suggests the latter, but perhaps some aficionado of Australian sausages will know more. As for the ultimate etymology, the Polish form seems to have a straightforward derivation from kaban ‘(wild) pig,’ a Slavic term borrowed from Turkic, and my guess would be that the Italian is borrowed from Slavic, though German Wikipedia suggests a derivation from “Cabanos, jener Schutzhütte für Besatzung und ihre Vorräte am Schiffsdeck…, deren Bezeichnung von caban = Mantel, von arabisch und sizilianisch qabã = Schutzumhang stammt” (i.e., forms related to English cabin), which sounds much less plausible to me.

Comments

  1. D Sky Onosson says:

    Might this be, or be similar to, kielbasa? en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kielbasa
    Here in Canada, we usually pronounce it something like “kubasa”, stress on 1st syllable (typing on my iPhone, otherwise I’d put that in IPA).

  2. In Israel Kabanos is so familiar it became the generic name for all sausages that are similarly shaped ( http://hendels.co.il/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/KBN01-1.jpg ). The most popular brand is a standard military kitchen supply and as such is strongly associated with the army service, especially with soldiers living on it during 48-hour-long ambushes (and – believe it or not – dipping it in chocolate spread). As a result, you won’t find Kabanos in any gourmet context.

  3. Maybe the pigs lived in cabins in Sicily?

  4. D Sky Onosson, where in Canada are you from? I’ve always heard it pronounced with /i/ and a dark L (though I know it’s got a barred L, /w/, in Polish). I’m from southeastern Ontario, though. If you’re from the Ukrainian heartlands out west, I can see it being pronounced significantly differently.

  5. I also heard them called “Havana sausages” in Israel, apparently a folk etymology.

  6. D Sky Onosson says:

    heisuagge: I should have been more specific. I’m from Winnipeg, and have half-Ukrainian heritage (my grandmother was actually born in Ukraine).
    Now that I’m at a computer, I can put this into phonetic transcription. For “kielbasa” I would say something like [ˈkʰu.bə.sɑ], and I’m pretty sure most Winnipeggers would too, whether they have a Ukrainian background or not.

  7. “Kaban” is Eastern Slavic for male pig, rather than Polish (which would be knur or wieprz … it’s interesting that the latter word exists in Russian meaning an archaic / poetic / heraldic Boar, while in Polish the meaning shifted to a lowly castrated piglet).
    The sausage is, appropriately, from NE Poland.

  8. Never mind the chocolate spread, sausages made from pork and beef in Israel? And what is a 48-hour ambush?

  9. D Sky Onosson says:

    This thread is making me *extremely* hungry… luckily, there is a meat shop about 5 minutes walking distance from where I am, and I *know* they will definitely have some smoked sausages!

  10. sausages made from pork and beef in Israel?
    This is just a random guess, but maybe they omit the pork? Just throwing that out there, mind you. A wild surmise.

  11. Language, the Hebrew wikipedia page says that in Eastern Europe, the sausage (no matter the name) might have been made from beef, horsemeat, or veal, but the Israeli version is strictly beef.

  12. but the Israeli version is strictly beef.
    Absolutely. They’re available at all regular supermarkets — which means they’ve passed muster with the kashrut authorities and contain no pork.
    Pork products are easily available in Israel, but only at one upstart chain and at private stores.

  13. We eat kabanos regularly. When my wife was a girl the neighbours were Polish – she picked up a few words of the language. The girl next door was expected to speak to her grandfather in Latin.

  14. marie-lucie says:

    One of my near-ancestresses (I think a great-aunt of my maternal grandmother) spoke Latin. The story I heard was that after her parents died while she was still very young she was raised by her two oldest brothers, who were priests and lived together. When they entertained other priests, they all spoke Latin and the visitors were amazed that the girl spoke it too.
    Sausages
    With the substantial Muslim population living in France, some typical foods have become very popular throughout the country. One of them is merguez, a spicy lamb sausage. Here in Halifax (Canada) I sometimes bought sausages at the farmer’s market, from a German butcher who made five or six different kinds. One day one of the trays was labelled “merguez”, so I bought some of these. I was very disappointed: they were not bad, although rather bland, but they were certainly not like the merguez I knew from France. Next time I asked the butcher what kind of meat they were: “Pork!”

  15. J.W. Brewer says:

    I hope you have all seen the news that one Italian news agency got the scoop on the Papal resignation/retirement because their reporter on the scene actually could understand Latin well enough not to have to wait for the translation but figure it out in real time. Google “Giovanna Chirri” for various versions of the anecdote – I now can’t find the version of the story that had her arguing with her Latinity-deficient editor about whether she was sure enough that they should put it on the wire without confirmation in a language the editor understood.

  16. marie-lucie says:

    I think that Latin, pronounced in the Italian manner as is the norm in the Catholic Church, is easier for Italians to understand than for any other language group. If the reporter had also been very good at Latin during her studies, the story makes good sense. Even if she did not understand every single word, the text was long enough for her to get the gist of it.
    There was an article on Slate, supposedly written in Latin, but even the title did not make sense. I guess the whole thing was written in Fake Latin just for a joke, using mostly Latin words but inappropriately in both meaning and grammar.

  17. There is also the Greek pork sausage called kabanosi to be considered, most likely sourced from Turkish.

  18. Garrigus Carraig says:

    I am surprised to learn of the Canadian pronunciation [ˈkʰu.bə.sɑ]. Here in the U.S., I have only heard the pronunciation /kiːlˈbɑːsə/.
    I ate a ton of kielbasa as a child, even though my family has no connection to eastern Europe.

  19. “Kaban” is obviously Turkic. It also has a Mongolian cognate
    ХОВС I ᠬᠣᠪᠤᠰᠤ qobusu(n)
    meaning 2 year old male wild pig
    http://toli.query.mn/words/30712
    One of the Buryat dialects has even closer form “хобхон” /xobhon/

  20. @AJP Military: As subsequent commenters noted, there’s no pork in Israeli (store-bought) Kabanos.
    The ambushes (I thought there might be a better word for this in English but couldn’t find one) were the IDF’s main tactic during the 1985-2000 low-intensity conflict in the Lebanon Security Zone. Send a company to lie in the freezing mud for a day or two in hopes of catching a Hezbollah squad moving around or setting booby-traps or whatnot. A movie about the end of this period was recently nominated for an Academy Award:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uXZyuDW1WI
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1982-2000_South_Lebanon_conflict

  21. Thanks, Yuval. If I’d had to lie in freezing mud, I’d probably be glad of a chocolate sausage or two. An army marches on its stomach.

  22. @ Garrigus Carraig:
    My Brooklyn-born Polish/Ukrainian wife says: /kiːlˈbɑːsi/, as do all members of both sides of the family (at least the ones I’ve met). I’ve never heard that pronunciation anywhere else.

  23. I’ve heard the ˈkubasa’ pronunciation lots of times in the US. I think it’s just an English mishearing of ‘kiel’. They aren’t that far apart when you say it fast.

  24. I hope you have all seen the news that one Italian news agency got the scoop on the Papal resignation/retirement because their reporter on the scene actually could understand Latin well enough not to have to wait for the translation but figure it out in real time.
    I hadn’t heard that, but I did hear that some of the cardinals didn’t appear to grasp what had happened until they heard the translation. See, this is how you find out who really knows the language. That or tell a joke.
    I’ve heard the ˈkubasa’ pronunciation lots of times in the US. I think it’s just an English mishearing of ‘kiel’. They aren’t that far apart when you say it fast.
    The point at issue isn’t so much the “u” as the initial stress: KOO-buh-sah. That sounds very weird to me; like Garrigus, I’ve only heard /kiːlˈbɑːsə/ keel-BAH-suh. Which makes sense, because Polish has only penultimate stress.

  25. Yes, that sounds weird to me too.

  26. (Also KU basj is cow shit in Norwegian.)

  27. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    Although English Wikipedia argues that kabanos and cabanossi shouldn’t be confused, I suspect they are originally the same word if not precisely the same sausage.
    In Polish, the singular is kabanos but the plural is kabanosy. The word seems to have entered German with the alternative spellings Kabanossi or Cabanossi (Duden).
    I’ll leave it to linguists to explain why German and English took the Polish plural and turned it into a singular. I’ve noticed the pattern with Italian words for food: e.g., salami, zucchini.
    I’m pretty sure there’s nothing Italian about the word cabanossi. It’s probably insignificant that I’d never heard it before myself, but on Italian websites it’s very rare (
    2,370 results compared to 322,000 for Germany) and it lacks any obvious singular (not cabanosso and not even the unlikely cabanossa or cabanosse).

  28. marie-lucie says:

    Sausage stress:
    I have seen kielbasa many times but have never heard the word spoken. But Modern English has a strong tendency toward first-syllable stress on trisyllables (as in TRIsyllable, DUplicate, Unicorn and many others).
    I wonder if the change of Polish kielBAsa to English KUbasa had an intermediate step kewBAsa /kju:bása/ . Since /kju:/ seems to be unusual for an English unstressed syllable, it could have become /ku:/ before the stress shift occurred (notice the reverse in English coupon /kú:pon/ to /kjú:pon/ in some speakers).

  29. marie-lucie says:

    I quite agree with Giacomo.

  30. intermediate step kewBAsa /kju:bása/
    Similar variations of this unstressed syllable are common in Slavic languages, like it becomes kovbasa in Ukrainian and kaubasa in Belorussia. In fact the unusual Canadian pronunciation may be an Ukrainian, rather than Polish, influence?
    The etymology seems to be totally murky BTW.

  31. D Sky Onosson says:

    I’m pretty sure that the western Canadian pronunciation derives from Ukrainian, not Polish – for Manitoba, Wikipedia lists Ukrainian-origin as 14% of the population, compared with 7% Polish.

  32. Marie-Lucie – I don’t really do Polish or IPA, but kewBAsa /kju:bása/ looks like it should be close to the Polish pronunciation? Is that the right polish pronunciation, or the most likely english attempt at it?
    For about a year at the end of college, my latin was good enough that I could understand spoken latin and (once or twice) instantaneously translate, although the church pronunciation sometimes caught me up. It’s a fairly useless skill (unless you cover the vatican for an italian newspaper) but a seriously fun way to show off.
    Really, I suppose, there’s nothing more amazing about speaking Latin than any other learned foreign language, except that no one tries or teaches it to be spoken.

  33. J.W. Brewer says:

    By “English KUbasa,” I think m-l may mean “Canadian English” or “Manitoban English” or something like that. I’ve never heard it in AmEng as anything other than kielBAsa. Note that “salami,” to pick another trisyllabic sausage-name of foreign origin, has retained second-syllable stress in AmEng.

  34. marie-lucie says:

    As I said, I don’t think I have ever heard “kielbasa” pronounced, and I don’t know Polish, so after reading other comments I was speculating on how the first syllable evolved once the word was used in English.
    Of course I know saLAmi, pasTRAmi, raVIOli, zuCCHIni, spaGHEtti etc, but these words share their penultimate stress with other Italian borrowings such as macaROni, peppeROni, bocconCIni or mozzaRElla. I don’t think “kielbasa” is nearly as widespread in North America as those Italian foods, and its name is not part of a patterned series like the Italian names (if it is in Polish, that is irrelevant to the unique borrowing into English). Note that I mentioned a “tendency” to stressing the first syllable, not an absolute rule. For the Italian words, the penultimate stress rule preserved in those words trumps the English tendency.

  35. “Pastrami” is a word of Turkish origin, or possibly Romanian. As a food it was brought to the US principally by Romanian Jews.
    Poles have a huge variety of sausages. Every few months we make a pilgrimage to a Polish sausage factory and stock up. I don’t remember all the names because we mostly buy by sampling and pointing. Then we have to go home in a sausage-scented car.

  36. I spent a month in Tehran relatively recently, a city where the Italian embassy brings in Parma ham on a regular basis for its citizens, and I missed pork sausage immensely, the beef replacements didn’t cut it for me. I felt taunted (I feel understandably!) at encountering this street sign,,

  37. “Pastrami” is a word of Turkish origin, or possibly Romanian
    And it entered Russian vocabulary in two distinct froms, from two distant corners of the former Osman Empire: Armenian “basturMA” бастурма Բաստուրմա, and Moldovan/Romanian/Jewish “pastroMA” пастрома פּאַסטראָמע. Note the last syllable stress in each case

  38. I don’t think “kielbasa” is nearly as widespread in North America as those Italian foods, and its name is not part of a patterned series like the Italian names (if it is in Polish, that is irrelevant to the unique borrowing into English).
    Polish is not irrelevant, because the people who borrowed it into English would have learned it from Polish speakers. And just to emphasize: initial stress is extremely weird for this word; I have never, ever heard it said that way, and I’ve discussed kielbasa with many people in many places over the years. (And it is very common in the Northeast; I doubt you’d find a New Yorker who’d never heard of it.)

  39. I’m mildly ashamed to admit that for years I thought it was one kabano (rhyming with “Meccano”), two kabanos – and the Polish guy in the shop where I bought them ever corrected me.
    @Giacomo Ponzetto: “if not precisely the same sausage”.
    Yes. In the UK you have to be careful, especially with the ones you get in inexpensive import supermarkets. Under the label “cabanossi” you find some absolutely delicious dry ones in the style of Polish kabanos, and others that are little more than oversalted garlicky Spam.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    I don’t think “kielbasa” is nearly as widespread in North America as those Italian foods, and its name is not part of a patterned series like the Italian names (if it is in Polish, that is irrelevant to the unique borrowing into English).
    Perhaps I did not express myself clearly. I meant: if the name belongs to a patterned series in Polish, that is irrelevant to the borrowing of a single term, as the borrowers would have nothing to compare it to.
    The Italian names, ending in a vowel, with stress on the penultimate syllable, can be described as a “patterned series” into which new words can easily slip, alongside the already existing or borrowed words. These words, sharing the semantic field of ‘food’, also share a phonological pattern. On the other hand, to my knowledge, English has not borrowed Polish words designating foods which also have the same phonological pattern as kielbasa. Although there may be North American cities or regions where such foods are popular, I don’t think the foods or their names are as ubiquitous as the Italian ones. So even if kielbasa belonged to a similar “patterned series” in Polish, English speakers borrowing a single word from this series would be unaware of the existence of the series.
    LH: Polish is not irrelevant, because the people who borrowed it into English would have learned it from Polish speakers.
    The first borrowers would indeed have learned the word from native Polish speakers, but their children or their fellow citizens might not have heard the original, only a distorted version filtered through the first English-speaking hearers of the word, and later they might have added their own distortions in order to adapt the pronunciation to that of English.
    And just to emphasize: initial stress is extremely weird for this word; I have never, ever heard it said that way, and I’ve discussed kielbasa with many people in many places over the years.
    I don’t disagree with you: the only report on KUbasa above comes from Canada, and my comment concerned the existence and possible origin of that form. I certainly did not mean to imply that the majority of English speakers in North America used it.
    (And it is very common in the Northeast; I doubt you’d find a New Yorker who’d never heard of it.)
    I myself have eaten the sausage as well as seen the word written, I just don’t remember hearing the word spoken. I will enquire if I get the chance.

  41. Polish is not irrelevant
    I believe m-l meant “If it is [part of a patterned series] in Polish”. As far as I know, it’s not.
    Quoth Wikipedia: “In addition to kiebasa, Canadians also use the word kubasa (/kuːbɑːˈsɑː/ or /ˈkuːbəsɑː/), a corruption of the Ukrainian kovbasa (ковбаса), and Albertans even abbreviate it as kubie to refer to the sausage eaten on a hot dog bun.” The sequence ov in Ukrainian is pronounced /ow/. I think it far more likely that a word borrowed into English with final stress would shift to initial stress than a word with penultimate stress.
    My wife says that before she moved to New York City from Florida (and before that she from North Carolina) she “had never heard tell of it, but she found out [what it was] right away.”

  42. I think it far more likely that a word borrowed into English with final stress would shift to initial stress than a word with penultimate stress.
    I do too, and I think the Ukrainian origin is quite likely.

  43. marie-lucie says:

    JC, LH, I agree with you both. /kúbasa/ is much more likely to derive from Ukrainian kovbasa than from Polish kielbasa, but the Ukrainian form was not introduced until late in the discussion and I had no way of knowing it. I hereby withdraw my attempt at deriving /kúbasa/ from the Polish form.

  44. MOCKBA: Note the last syllable stress in each case. Not Yiddish, though (which is the immediate source of English “pastrami”; in Yiddish, as in English, it’s penult.
    Speaking of stress, I wonder if Ukrainian “kovbasa” has initial stress like the Canadian term. Interestingly, the “vb” shows that this is a Polish borrowing, though that must have been “kołbasa.” I think this means that in the Ukrainian word the stress would have to be penult, because I’m pretty sure Ukrainian borrowing from Polish happened after Polish developed penult stress.

  45. J.W. Brewer says:

    “The world’s largest display model of a Ukrainian sausage is a roadside attraction in Mundare, Alberta, the home of Stawnichy’s Meat Processing.” That’s a perfect example of the sort of fact that would have been unfortunately cut for space reasons in a hard-copy reference work but which can find a happy home in the unbounded realm of wikipedia.

  46. dsfargeg fgsfds says:

    paulb: My mother (third-generation Polish-American) says /kəl’basi/, as both the singular and plural.

  47. minus273: So the stress in the Ukrainian word is final? Interesting. I wouldn’t have guessed that.
    Nevertheless, the l/v correspondence is irrefutable proof that Ukrainian borrowed it from Polish. There may have been an older Ukrainian form that it replaced, of course, but you only ever have v in Ukrainian where other Slavic languages have l in cases of borrowing from Polish. I don’t doubt, though, the possibility of a Turkic source for the Slavic word.
    I forgot to mention: Yiddish has both KOLbas and kolBAS (as well as kolBASe). I have no clue about the geographic distribution of these.

  48. In Ukrainian, coda v [w] continues the older hard l, just like in current Polish and Belarusian. That’s why we have -в for the masculine past tense suffix.

  49. Ah, thanks, minus273. I stand corrected; I was misinformed. Now, thanks to you, I am unmisinformed.
    By the way, I just ran this stuff by an informant who’s a western Canadian of Ukrainian ancestry, and she said “KObaSA,” with slightly more stress on the last syllable than the first. I asked her about “KUbasa,” and she said, “Maybe my grandmother said that.”

  50. in my language kolbasa becomes galavsaa, i ‘m sure SFR knows about this borrowing from russian and must be considers it a mystery too, the transformation of sounds in there
    the native word for sausages is khiam which i was told comes from ham

  51. khiam is a native Mongolian word, originally probably meant liver, intestines, womb
    Proto-Mongolian: *kim
    Meaning: sausage, offal
    Russian meaning: колбаса, требуха
    Written Mongolian: kima (МХТТТ)
    Khalkha: xim
    Buriat: xemneg ‘womb’
    Proto-Altaic: *k`èmì
    Nostratic: Nostratic
    Meaning: intestines; liver
    Russian meaning: внутренности; печень
    Proto-Tungus-Manchu: *xemu-gde
    Meaning: 1 belly 2 intestines
    Russian meaning: 1 живот 2 внутренности
    Evenki: emugde 2
    Even: emdъ 2
    Negidal: emugde 1
    Ulcha: xemde 1
    Orok: xemugde 2
    Nanai: xemde 1
    Udighe: emugde 1
    Comments: ТМС 2, 451.
    Japanese: *kìmuà

  52. The world’s largest display model of a Ukrainian sausage. (There’s no proof of this claim, however.)

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