v42: lök

I am an onion. Last week’s picture, that is, is a spring onion (salladslök or knipplök; Allium fistulosum). Actually I am a bit of an onion also: I was supposed to buy spring onions at the supermarket, but bought chives (gräslök; Allium schoenoprasum) instead. Onion in Swedish is lök. The prototypical onion is Allium cepa, which has many varieties, including silverlök (white onion), rödlök (red [Spanish] onion), gul lök (brown onion), and schalottenlök (shallot). Other related vegetables are purjolök (leek; Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum), and vitlök (garlic; Allium sativum). Lök also means bulb or bud, as in tulpanlök (tulip bulb) and smaklök (taste bud).

I’m still a little puzzled as to why it’s silverlök and rödlök but not *gullök (see two weeks ago for the discussion of särskrivning).

I hadn’t previously thought of either chives or garlic as being onions. The English names don’t make it obvious, whereas the Swedish ones do; I thought this was an intersting example of how even nouns can be categorised differently in two such closely-related languages as English and Swedish. I guess this will be a fruitful (vegetableful?) topic for further discussion.

Although they seem at first to be very different words, the derivations of the names of the vegetables in English and Swedish are rather interesting and overlapping: Onion in Latin is cepa (from which chives is derived, via the French cive). In Greek, apparently (my knowledge of Greek is pretty non-existent) leek is praso [πράσο] and green is prasino [πράσινο], hence the species name of leeks and chives, as well as the element Praseodymium. Leek, lök, and the -lic in garlic are related. The porrum in the botanical name for leek gives both the purjo- in purjolök, and porridge.

Next week:


I said I’d talk about colour terms again. Pigs have come in for a bit of a bashing lately thanks to swine flu. What colour are pigs?

Published in: on October 12, 2009 at 19:36  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Hi Richard,

    I really like your blog, makes me think of things that are obvious to me as a Swede but why it is so I don’t know.
    Anyway here is an add from ICA, also about “lökar”.


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