I·ATE Food Term of the Week: Marmalade


It’s that time of the year again: the food preservation season has started! Having a rich harvest of fruit and vegetables is every gardener’s dream, but an abundance can quickly turn into a nightmare if the crop is subject to spoilage. In order to not get in a pickle, growers all over the world devised different procedures so they could eat to their heart’s content over the whole year.

Alongside various methods for the preservation of salty and savoury dishes, there are fortunately just as many preservation techniques for those of us who have a sweet tooth. Some may think that it is an old-fashioned tradition that no one practices anymore and that making jam is something for grannies – far from it! Home canning is back in vogue and brings joy and pleasure, but also some interesting questions. So, what’s marmalade all about?

The word marmalade fits well with monolinguals. So, even if you don’t speak any language other than English, there is a big chance that you can translate this week’s I·ATE Food Term to all your friends’ mother tongues! How is that possible? Well, have a look at the table:

EN marmalade
DA marmelade
DE Marmelade
EL μαρμελάδα
ES mermelada
FR marmelade
IT marmellata
MT marmellata
NL marmelade
PT doce de fruta

Apart from the last line, the term doesn’t differ much in these languages because they all have a common origin. Funny enough, the word has its roots in the Portuguese language. Marmalade derives from the word marmelo, which is the Portuguese word for quince and was used to produce marmelada. Marmelada is a pretty stiff preserve which dates back to the early 15th century. It was packed in wooden boxes and could be cut into slices to eat as dessert or spread on bread. England and France imported the costly delicacy for decades until they found a way to produce their own version out of bitter oranges, which had a viscous consistence like the marmalade known today. Nowadays in various languages marmalade is used to designate all kinds of citrus jams, except in the Portuguese language, which keeps the term for the actual original marmelada.





Written by Karine Marinho Ribeiro – Communication Study Visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) and a student of the Master´s Programme in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. She holds a BA in German and Lusophone Philology from the University of Cologne. She speaks Portuguese, Luxembourgish, German, French, English and Spanish.