In a recent post in my other blog, I noted that the botanical name for the wildflower colloquially called mealy blue sage is Salvia farinacea. That second word is the feminine form of the Latin adjective farinaceus; it meant ‘mealy,’ a meaning that we’ve borrowed in the little-changed farináceo/farinaceous. The Latin adjective had come from the noun farina ‘meal, flour, ground grain.’ English has taken over the unchanged Latin noun to mean, in the words of the 1913 Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, ‘a fine flour or meal made from cereal grains or from the starch or fecula of vegetables, extracted by various processes, and used in cookery.’ Spanish also once used the form farina, but following the f –> h transformation peculiar to the language, the modern form is harina. The derivative noun harinado is ‘flour dissolved in water,’ and an harinero can be ‘a flour merchant’ or ‘a place where flour is kept.’ Alongside the learned farináceo Spanish has the down-to-earth harinoso, which means ‘floury, mealy, containing meal.’ And English adds the learned farinose, which the American Heritage Dictionary says means ‘similar to or yielding farina’; a biological sense of the word is ‘covered with mealy dust or powder.’

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dianeandjack
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 18:54:01

    So interesting!
    In Brazil, where I was teaching for 3 years, we ate farinha with every meal. I believe it was from the root of the cassava plant. It was really not so nutritious, and is eaten in the powder form with hot sauce on it. An essential part of every meal in the northern part of Brazil!


  2. Steve Schwartzman
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 19:20:54

    I’m glad you find this interesting. Thanks for telling us about your experience in northern Brazil. My wife is from the Philippines, where cassava is common and serves as an inexpensive food for the poor (and others). People there also extract starch from cassava. Até a logo.


  3. shoreacres
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 19:42:28

    Brazil, Philippines and – Liberia! When I was living there, cassava root also was a staple food. Rice was the primary grain, but Dumboy, boiled and pounded cassava was common. There wasn’t anything farina-like about it, though – at least not in the sense of being meal-like. It tended toward the sticky and gelatinous.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Mar 09, 2012 @ 20:21:34

      Sticky and gelatinous describes also my association with it: my wife makes what Filipinos call cassava cake, but it’s much more like a thick pudding than a cake. Yum yum. I was aware of cassava consumption in Africa, but the term Dumboy is new to this dumb boy.


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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