Word Origin & History
c.1289, from O.Fr. sucre "sugar" (12c.), from M.L. succarum, from Arabic sukkar, from Pers. shakar, from Skt. sharkara "ground or candied sugar," originally "grit, gravel" (cognate with Gk. kroke "pebble"). The Arabic word also was borrowed in It. (zucchero), Sp. (azucar), and O.H.G. (zucura, Ger. Zucker),
and its forms are represented in most European languages (cf. Serb. cukar, Pol. cukier, Rus. sakhar). Its Old World home was India (Alexander the Great's companions marveled at the "honey without bees") and it remained exotic in Europe until the Arabs began to cultivate it in Sicily and Spain; not until after the Crusades did it begin to rival honey as the West's sweetener. The Spaniards in the West Indies began raising sugar cane in 1506; first grown in Cuba 1523; first cultivated in Brazil 1532. The -g- in the Eng. form cannot be accounted for. The pronunciation shift from s- to sh- is probably from the initial long vowel sound syu- (as in sure). Slang "euphemistic substitute for an imprecation" [OED] is attested from 1891. As a term of endearment, first recorded 1930. Sugar maple is from 1753; sugar-plum is from 1608; sugar-daddy "elderly man who lavishes gifts on a young woman" first recorded 1926. Sugar coat (v.) "make more palatable" is from 1870. Sugar plum "small round candy" is from 1668. Sugar loaf was originally a moulded conical mass of refined sugar (1422); they're now obsolete, but sense extended 17c. to hills, hats, etc. of that shape.