I just discovered that canola was coined as late as 1978 the 1970s and is derived from Canadian oil, low acid. If I’d had to guess, I’d have picked an Italian origin; I certainly wouldn’t have pegged it for a recent semi-acronym. That’s what I call a successful bit of word-creation. (It used to be rapeseed, but for some reason that name was felt to be a detriment from a marketing standpoint.)


  1. Many fields of rape* around here – the bright yellow flowers are very visible in the spring & summer.
    * Which remains the normal name in UK English, if usually in the forms “oilseed rape” & “rapeseed oil”.

  2. There are claims that the low-acid part is a backronym. It’s just Canada plus -ola for ‘oil’.
    Edible rapeseed oil in Europe (more specifically “double-zero” or “double-low” rapeseed oil) is in fact canola oil, that is, the selectively bred version that reduced the erucic acid and glucosinolates. In the States, the FDA declared them separate species in order to allow canola to be GRAS.
    Search turns up conflicting reports on the exact timing of the coining, too.

  3. Thanks—I’ve changed the dating in the entry accordingly.

  4. mollymooly says

    I disagree with “semi-acronym”: I think acronym encompasses words created from initial segments of more than one letter (flak, nabisco) which would make Canola a full acronym if “Canadian oil, low acid” is the origin. If it’s Canada plus ola, I guess it’s a macaronic acronym (or macronym (c) mollymolly 2007)

  5. i have family that grew canola, and according to my grandfather, there is genetic differences b/w rape and canola–according to my mother (who’s father raised canola) says that canola is like rapeseed 2.0.
    she recommends Canola and Rapeseed: Production, Chemistry, Nutrition, and Processing Technology by Feridoon Shehidi (
    also canola faqs: (see question 2)

  6. David Marjanović says

    German: Raps respectively Rapsöl.

  7. Another few minutes searching did not turn up anything online to identify the coiner or narrow the time.
    As the late limit, there is the trademark registration, which conservatively claimed, “at least as early as July 1978.”
    On the early side is Stefansson‘s Tower variety. (Bit more on him here.) That page is also the only one to mention the runner-up name, CanAbra. But things aren’t very careful about whether it was always called canola or when it started being. For instance, these, or this, which also mentions Fred Solvoniuk, the supposed source of the “Polish” variety, which was naturally low in the bad stuff. He also shows up here and in this book, which isn’t previewable in Google Books.

  8. J. Del Col says

    Think “Mazola.” Maize + ola. Or “Shinola.”
    J. Del Col

  9. The word canola does not appear in reports of the scientists receiving the The Royal Bank Award in 1975. That pair of articles is fairly in depth. I think you need a subscription to the (highly addictive) NewspaperArchive to see that. But Google News archive search is enough to check for the word. Negative evidence isn’t conclusive, of course. The editor might not have seen the need to mention a newly coined and as yet unknown name. Simple time-range searches as impeded by the Canon Canola desk calculator of about the same era.
    The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan article by Downey says that a committee of the Rapeseed Association (which I believe was first the WCOCA and is now the Canola Council) proposed the name. The Canadian Encyclopedia article by Downey and Stefansson gives a different Polish connection.

  10. Does a bear shinola in the woods? I never can tell.
    Maybe not being able to tell shit from shinola is the reason so many people think “shit” is an acronym.
    Could you call oil from a can “can-ola”? (That’s my bad attempt at a relevant contribution.)

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