16c., parsnepe, corruption (by influence of M.E. nepe "turnip") of M.E. passenep (late 14c.), from O.Fr. pasnaie, from L. pastinaca "parsnip, carrot," from pastinum "two-pronged fork" (related to pastinare "to dig up the ground") so called from the shape of the root. The parsnip was considered a kind of turnip.