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Etymology of the word barbecue

February 24, 2016 · by Mark Wieland · 1 Comment

Linked from National Barbecue Association website:

Etymology of the word barbecue

Whether you spell it Barbecue, Barbeque, Barbaque, Barbicue, BBQ, B-B-Que, Bar-B-Q, Bar-B-Que, Bar-B-Cue, ‘Cue, ‘Que, Barbie, and just plain Q, the origins of the word barbecue, and that’s how most dictionaries spell it, are pretty clear.

There are a lot of myths surrounding the etymology of the word, so here is what we know today:

The Spanish explorer Gonzalo Fernàndez De Oviedo y ValdZÿs was the first to use the word “barbecoa” or anything like it in print in Spain in 1526 in Diccionario de la Lengua Espanola (2nd Edition) of the Real Academia Espanola. Oviedo, as historians refer to him, traveled extensively in the Caribbean and what is now Florida in the 1500s, and he was the first to describe the wooden rack above the ground used by the natives for cooking. He said it was from the Taino dialect of the Arawak American Indians. A website maintained by descendants of the Tainos says the word barbecue comes from “A poorly written translation between Spanish and English of the Taino word Barbicu”.

Was that the original word? Hard to say because several European explorers say the same word was used for a wooden rack above the ground used for sleeping and for storing food away from insects, snakes, and animals. The modern Taino dictionary makes no mention of these other uses so one has to question its accuracy.

As we know, people often have trouble pronouncing foreign words. In any case, barbacoa was the first to appear in print, and that’s the word that started going around Europe.

In 1755 Samuel Johnson, the British lexicographer, essayist, and editor included the word “barbecue” in his landmark Dictionary of the English Language.

In the early days of the automobile, restaurants in search of short names that were easy to read at highway speeds began hoisting bright signs that said “EAT”, “Cafe”, and “BBQ”.

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1 Response to “Etymology of the word barbecue”

  1. gia xe toyota fortuner 2017 October 12, 2016 at 8:48 pm Reply

    Great post.

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