Patrick Taylor, etymologist for the American Heritage Dictionary, is an occasional commenter at LH and always has interesting things to say, so I’m pleased to pass along his excellent revision to the etymology of garbanzo, to appear in the AHD update this fall (I found it in Steve Kleinedler’s Facebook feed):

[Spanish, perhaps alteration (influenced by Old Spanish garroba, carob) of Old Spanish *arvanço (compare Portuguese ervanço, chickpea), perhaps from Gothic *arwaits; akin to Dutch erwt and Old High German araweiz, pea, both from Proto-Germanic *arwait-,*arwīt-, pea, pulse, probably from the same European substrate source as Greek erebinthos, chickpea, and Greek orobos and Latin ervum, bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia), a vetch once widely cultivated in the Mediterranean region as a pulse and as fodder for livestock.]

I add, totally irrelevantly, that I have always loved the phrase “bitter vetch,” though I wouldn’t know one if I saw it. Also, erwt is a weird-looking word.


  1. Had to look up Russian чечевица “chechevitsa” for seeming cognacy to chickpea <= Lat. cicer but it appears to be unrelated, and until relatively recently, the first consonant was “s” rather than “ch”. It is supposedly explained by syllabic assimilation but it looks peculiarly similar to the proposed origins of the word-initial “g” in “garbanzo”…

  2. How long before someone mentions Cícero?

    “Garbancito” is still used in Spain as a semi-affectionate name for a bald(ing)man with a certain kind of nose.

  3. Ha, I believe I can picture a person with that nose.

  4. Russian чечевица “chechevitsa” lentil

    There is an interesting disconnect between the classics here, with Vasmer’s assumption that it derives from “sok” “juice” through “сочиво” (extinct but supposedly seed-juice?), then circularly explaining “sok” as related to lentils… while Dahl vehemently insisted that Russian “sok” juice is a Latin borrowing related to English “succulent”, and should properly be banished from Russian and replaced by autochtonous “zhizha”

  5. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says

    Tried to comment on this but my post somehow evaporated (twice) after clicking ‘post comment’. Inter os atque offam…

  6. David Marjanović says

    Some strings of letters trigger the spam filter.

  7. The software is just trying to illustrate the proverb: there’s many a slip ‘twixt clicking ‘post comment’ and seeing your words appear on the page.

  8. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says

    “Some strings of letters trigger the spam filter.”

    Well, I figure I shouldn’t have mentioned lentils and Romance together…

  9. Once in a while my comments “disappear” (I press the “Post” button and it just redraws the page as it was, without my comment). Whenever I tried deleting words, or chopping the text in halves, in a vain hope of finding the would-be offensive “string of letters”, it just keeps discarding my message regardless of my edits and deletes. So I concluded that it must be some other bug … not the weirdness of the spam filter parsing the words, but something marking myself untrustworthy whatever the words may be. When it happens I just shoot an email to Languagehat, asking to add a comment in my name. Our gracious host always helps!

  10. Yeah, it’s not the spam filter — that would send the comment into moderation. I have no idea why some comments just won’t post, but send ’em to me and I’ll post ’em for you (for some reason, I never have a problem, even though it’s the same text).

  11. peter desmond says

    there’s an alternative etymology which is around.

    Carob. Ceratonia siliqua, the carob tree, is a species of flowering evergreen shrub or tree in the pea family, Fabaceae. It is widely cultivated for its edible pods, and as an ornamental tree in gardens. The ripe, dried pod is often ground to carob powder which is used as a substitute for cocoa powder. Middle English carabe, from Old French carobe, from Medieval Latin carrubium, from Arabic خَرُّوبٌ (kharrūb, “locust bean pod”), which derives from Akkadian kharubu.

    it seems to have met with disfavor.

  12. That’s not an alternative etymology, it’s an etymology of a different word.

  13. peter desmond says

    oh, quite right, hat, i was reading distractedly.

  14. No problem, I do a lot of distracted reading.

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