Word Origin & History
1130, from Anglo-Fr. union, from O.Fr. oignon (formerly also oingnon), from L. unionem (nom. unio), colloquial rustic Roman for "a kind of onion," also "pearl," lit. "one, unity;" sense connection is the successive layers of an onion, in contrast with garlic or cloves. O.E. had ynne (in ynne-leac), from
the same L. source, which also produced Ir. inniun, Welsh wynwyn and similar words in Gmc. In Du., the ending in -n was mistaken for a plural inflection and new sing. ui formed. The usual I.E. name is represented by Gk. kromion, Ir. crem, Welsh craf, O.E. hramsa, Lith. kremuse. The usual L. word was cepa, a loan from an unknown language; cf. O.Fr. cive, O.E. cipe, and, via L.L. dim. cepulla, It. cipolla, Sp. cebolla, Pol. cebula. Ger zweibel also is from this source, but altered by folk etymology in O.H.G. (zwibolla) from words for "two" and "ball." Onion ring is attested from 1952. Onions, the surname, is attested from 1159 (Ennian), from O.Wesh Enniaun, ult. from L. Annianus, which was associated with Welsh einion "anvil."