agarita

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

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. WordSnooper.com
    Feb 16, 2012 @ 23:33:52

    What a beautiful picture. Thanks for the introduction to this attractive plant. I guess “agrio” is related to “acerbic” too.

    Reply

    • Steve Schwartzman
      Feb 17, 2012 @ 06:47:31

      Thanks, Judith. The agarita here is really getting going now.

      You’re right that acerbic is a related word, along with acid and quite a few others (that could be subjects of future posts).

      Reply

  2. shoreacres
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 18:11:04

    I never would have guessed “acerbic” and “agarita” were connected. Now I know!

    And my last jar of agarita jelly has been opened. I swear – as much work as it is to make, I’d best enjoy it while my jelly-making friend is still around. You’ll not find me out in those bushes poking around for berries and getting poked!

    Reply

  3. Steve Schwartzman
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 18:57:33

    I’ve had my share of getting poked just to take pictures; I’ll share my quota with you. I can’t imagine picking a lot of the berries. Maybe people shake the plant with sticks to get the fruit to fall to the ground so it can be more easily and painlessly gathered up.

    Reply

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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