(English) “Oil”… Once upon a time only for Olive Oil
Words often encompass a wealth of history, and this is indeed the case with the two that concern us, olive and oil. The etymological roots of these words both in English and other languages point to their geographical origin and propagation.
In English, olive came via the Old French olive, derived from the Latin olive (olive, olive tree), which in turn came from the Greek elaia. The juice of the olive fruit, referred to by the poet Homer as “liquid gold”, was known in Greek as elaion. From this came oleum, the Latin word used by the Romans which was eventually to migrate to huile in French, oil in English. It is interesting to note that until the beginning of the 14th Century, the word oil referred purely and simply to olive oil alone. It was after this time that its usage began to include other fatty substances.
In Spanish, on the other hand, the word for olive is aceituna, a legacy of the Arabic of the Moors: az-zaytun. The Moors improved greatly on cultivation and production techniques for obtaining az-zait – the juice of olives. And similarly to English usage, the Spanish word aceite is no longer used exclusively for olive oil but for all types.
Thus is the journey of today’s Olive Oil chronicled in its very name.