Where does mayonnaise come from?

Answer: Menorca, some say

Every day, I get the Palabra del Día (Word of the Day) email from elcastellano.org, a website dedicated to the Spanish language. It not only reveals the etymology of the word, but also discusses something about the history behind it.

Today’s word: mayonesa.

Its history is given as this:
In April 1756, the French rolled into Menorca to take over. There they became acquainted with a sauce made of olive oil and egg yolk that Menorcans served on fish. The capital of Menorca was Puerto Mahón (now just Mahón), and the Duke of Richelieu dubbed the delicious condiment sauce mahonnaise. Before long, it became known in Spanish-speaking countries as salsa mayonesa.

Like many food-related words, our mayonnaise was borrowed from French. My nephew Larry hates it and I’m sure wishes we would give it back.

The people at etymonline.com question this etymology due to its late arrival in French (1806). I dunno, is it a folk etymology*? Did it take 50 years to cross the sea? Or did the word just not make it until then into written form where the linguists could find it? People could eat mayonnaise without writing about it. Though there’s the cookbook genre that linguists use. Etymonline also includes in its description, “An inferior sort of Miracle Whip,” which is pretty funny if you ask me.

It’s interesting to me that you can now buy olive oil mayonnaise, which, if this etymology is true, brings it back to its origins. Love it? Hate it? Leave a comment. Oh, wait. Sorry, you can’t; because of spammers I had to turn comments off.

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*Technically, a derivational-only popular etymology

About Verla

Wordfreak. Retired private investigator and Spanish court interpreter. Erstwhile librarian. Texan by birth, cheesehead by upbringing, latina by soul, in New Mexico by choice. Lover of things purple. Passionate participant in the Librivox audiobook recording project. We record books that are in the public domain in the U.S. The recordings are then placed in the public domain themselves.
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