Colorado School of Mines

Give me the origin, history of the words gram, edible oil, sugar, pulse and spice?

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metric unit of weight," 1797, from Fr. gramme (18c.), from L.L. gramma "small weight," from Gk. gramma "small weight," originally "letter of the alphabet," from stem of graphein "to draw, write" (see -graphy). Adopted into English about two years before it was established in France as a unit in the metric system by law of 19 frimaire, year VIII (1799).


sugar (n.)

late 13c., sugre, from O.Fr. sucre "sugar" (12c.), from M.L. succarum, from Arabic sukkar, from Pers. shakar, from Skt. sharkara "ground or candied sugar," originally "grit, gravel" (cognate with Gk. kroke "pebble"). The Arabic word also was borrowed in Italian (zucchero), Spanish (azucar), and German (O.H.G. zucura, Ger. Zucker), and its forms are represented in most European languages (cf. Serb. cukar, Pol. cukier, Rus. sakhar).

Its Old World home was India (Alexander the Great's companions marveled at the "honey without bees") and it remained exotic in Europe until the Arabs began to cultivate it in Sicily and Spain; not until after the Crusades did it begin to rival honey as the West's sweetener. The Spaniards in the West Indies began raising sugar cane in 1506; first grown in Cuba 1523; first cultivated in Brazil 1532. The -g- in the English form cannot be accounted for. The pronunciation shift from s- to sh- is probably from the initial long vowel sound syu- (as in sure). Slang "euphemistic substitute for an imprecation" [OED] is attested from 1891. As a term of endearment, first recorded 1930. Sugar maple is from 1753. Sugar loaf was originally a moulded conical mass of refined sugar (early 15c.); they're now obsolete, but sense extended 17c. to hills, hats, etc. of that shape.


pulse (v.)

"to beat, throb," 1550s, from pulse (n.). Related: Pulsed; pulsing.

pulse (n.2)

"peas, beans, lentils," c.1300, from O.Fr. pols, from L. puls "thick gruel," probably via Etruscan, from Gk. poltos "porridge."

pulse (n.1)

"a throb, a beat," early 14c., from O.Fr. pous (late 12c.), from L. pulsus (in pulsus venarum "beating from the blood in the veins"), pp. of pellere "to push, drive," from PIE *pel- "to shake, swing" (cf. Gk. pallein "to weild, brandish, swing," pelemizein "to shake, cause to tremble").



early 13c., from O.Fr. espice, from L.L. species (pl.) "spices, goods, wares," from L. "kind, sort" (see species). Early druggists recognized four "types" of spices: saffron, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg. Fig. sense of "slight touch or trace of something" is recorded from 1530s. The verb, "to season with spices" is first recorded early 14c. (implied in spiced). Spice-cake first attested 1520s.