Fun Etymology Tuesday – Avocado & guacamole

Fun etymology time!

English is a very cosmopolitan language: it has borrowed words from a great number of languages from all over the world.

For example, did you know that the words “avocado” and “guacamole” come from the same root word?

Both of them come from Classical Nahuatl, the language spoken in the Aztec Empire before the regrettable arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.

The original Nahuatl word was “ahuacatl” (pronounced /a’wakatɬ/, for those of you who can read the IPA), which was at first borrowed into Spanish as “aguacate”. However, fairly early on it became confused with the already existing Spanish word “avocado”, meaning ‘lawyer’, and was soon enough assimilated into English as such. A less common English name for the fruit, “alligator pear”, comes from an English reinterpretation of the word “ahuacatl” as “alligator”, probably influenced by the fruit’s rough green skin, somewhat reminiscent of the alligator’s scaly hide.

What about “guacamole”? Well, that’s simply a composite of the Nahuatl words “ahuacatl” and “molli”, meaning ‘paste’: “ahuacamolli”, meaning ‘avocado paste’.

Have some with your nachos, you probably don’t need us to tell you that it’s delicious.

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