July 15, 2011
- lettuce (noun)
- What does it mean?
- : a common garden vegetable related to the daisies that has crisp juicy leaves used especially in salads
- How do you use it?
- "Benjamin . . . was perfectly at home, and ate a lettuce leaf. He said that he was in the habit of coming to the garden with his father to get lettuces for their Sunday dinner." (Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny)
- Are you a word wiz?
You surely know the word "lettuce," but you may not be as familiar with its origin. The word "lettuce" is linked to another food, linguistically-speaking. To what other food do you think "lettuce" is most closely related?You probably associate milk with cookies, but the word "lettuce" traces to "lac," the Latin word for "milk." Many kinds of lettuce have a milky white juice, so the ancient Romans called the vegetable "lactuca," from "lac." "Lactuca" came into English in the 14th century (via French), first as "letuse" and eventually spelled "lettuce." Another word with a "milky" history is "galaxy." Since the Milky Way looks like a stream of spilled milk, the Greeks called the system of planets and stars a "galaxies" after "gala," the Greek word for "milk." The Greek word traveled through Latin to be adopted as "galaxy" in English also in the 14th century.