Dictionary.com Word FAQs
What is the etymology of asparagus?
Prior to 1398, this vegetable's (Asparagus officinalis, family Liliaceæ) name was "asperages" or "aspergy." In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was "sperage," "sparage," or "sperach" in English. It was borrowed from Old French, coming from Latin (sparagus, sparagi), and ultimately from Greek aspáragos, aspháragos, though some etymologists believe there may have been a foreign source from which the Greek word is borrowed. The current form asparagus was re-borrowed c. 1597 from Latin. Around 1600, the plant became more widely known and a shortened form "'sparagus" appeared, which was then changed by folk etymology (before 1650) to be "sparrow-grass" or "sparagrass" - though botanists still wrote asparagus. It was not until the late 1800s when the current spelling became the popular form for all. Aloe, cowslip, hyacinth, leek, lily, onion, palm, pineapple, potato, and tulip are other members of the Liliaceæ family.