Yesterday in my other blog I showed a photograph of some blossoming agarita, a shrub whose name English has taken straight from Spanish. Although the steps in the etymology are vague, agarita seems to be based on Mexican Spanish agrito, the diminutive of agrio ‘bitter.’ People who know that this shrub produces small red fruits that have traditionally been made into a sweet jelly may wonder about the connection, but ‘tart’ may be a better translation of agrio than ‘bitter’ in this case. In Old Spanish the adjective was agro, which developed from Latin acer, with stem acr-, that meant ‘sharp’: think of the related acrimonia/acrimony and agudo/acute, for example. That sharpness is coincidentally appropriate for agarita, which has stiff leaves whose lobes taper to needle-like points.
© 2012 Steven Schwartzman