walnut

First off, Waelisc (“Welsh”) is the Anglo-Saxon word for those pesky Roman and British foreigners. Wales (the country) has the same root, meaning “the foreigners’ land.”

As it turns out, the “wal” in walnut is from that same root, making it the “foreign nut.” Or the Roman nut, more specifically. Down in Rome, they used the generic word for nut (nux) to refer to the walnut. (Other nuts got qualifiers — nux amara meant bitter almond, for example.)

Another reason for adding the wal- prefix was to distinguish the foreign walnut from England’s native hazelnut.

otter

According to the OED, otter (the animal) is “a suffixed form of the Indo-European base of water.” The sound similarity is not just a coincidence.

bread

A Germanic word that originally meant “bit, piece, or morsel.” The word loaf (Old English hlaf) was the word for bread, but over time it came to take on its modern meaning (“a portion of bread baked in one mass”), and bread changed to mean the food itself, rather than just a piece of it.

sauce

From the French word sauce, which comes from the Latin word salsa, “salted.” (Yes, this is the salsa of chips and salsa.) And salsa comes from the Latin sal, “salt.”

Our word salad also comes from sal, via the Latin infinitive salare (“to salt”) and then the past participle salata (“having been salted”), through Old French salade.

Salami also comes from Latin salare. The definition: “An Italian variety of sausage, highly salted and flavoured.”

And sausage itself is yet another descendant of this prolific root word. It comes from Old Northern French saussiche, from Latin salsicia, from salsus (also “salted,” same word as salsa but with a different ending).

There’s more, and this word nowadays has nothing to do with food (beyond putting it on the table). Salary comes from Latin salarium, “originally money allowed to Roman soldiers for the purchase of salt.”

cabinet

A “little cabin” or “small room,” which evolved into the sense of a place to store things. “Small room” also meant “private room,” as in a place for advisors to discuss matters, and then the meaning shifted to its current political meaning of referring to the group of advisors themselves.

biscuit

From Latin biscoctum, meaning “twice baked.” (The “coctum” part is the perfect passive participle of Latin coquo, “to cook.” And yes, that’s where our word “cook” comes from.)

Incidentally, from the 1500s to the 1700s biscuit was spelled “bisket” in English, but apparently the French spelling was more alluring and eventually took over.

cloud

From clod. No, really. Someone looked up and thought the clouds looked an awful lot like rocks in the sky, and started calling them clods. A vowel shift later and you have our modern “cloud.”