Monday, 9 June 2014

Companion - Bread Friends Forever

Bread and jam on a breadboard
Photo by The Culinary Geek


Noun & verb. Middle English.
[Old French compaignon from Proto-Romance, from Latin COM- + panis bread.]

Branch I Noun
A1(a) A person who associates with or accompanies another; an associate in, a sharer of. ME

A1(b) obsolete. A (worthless) person, fellow. L16-M18

A2 obsolete. Each of two or more people associated in a specific legal relation. M16-M18

A3 (Also capitalised) A member of an order of knighthood. Now specifically a member of the lowest grade of some orders of distinction. M16

A4 A person, usually a woman, who is paid to live with and accompany another. M18

A5 A journeyman. obsolete except Historical. L18

Branch II Noun
A6 A necessary guide or aid to a particular pursuit;
especially (a) a handbook or reference book to a specific subject, locality, etc. (frequently as part of the title);
(b) (a piece of) equipment combining several requisites. E18

A7 A thing that matches or closely resembles another. L18

A8 A star etc. that accompanies another; especially the fainter component of a double star system. E19

B1 verb. reflexive (obsolete) and intrans. Keep company, consort, with. literary. E17

B2 verb trans. Go or be with as a companion; accompany (literal & figurative) E17

It's said that the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Overlooking the sexist overtones that usually accompany this cliché, it seems that there is more than a crumb of truth to it, as reflected in the utterly delectable etymology of companion, constructed from com (with) and panis (bread), which can be read as 'with whom one breaks bread'.

English is not the only language to have retained this deliciously Latin root: Spanish has compañero, French has compagnon, Portuguese companheiro and Italian compagno. The message from the Romance languages is clear - if you desire companionship, then sharing a meal is the way to go (though ... ahem ... never be too kneady). 

What is companion in your language?

Do you know any other bread-related words for friendship?

Do please leave your most half-baked comments in the box below.


  1. For the majority of Greek people, the word 'companion' bears negative connotations as it's used to mean the book of word lists that accompanies every English textbook they've used to learn English from a very young age. As much as they hate companions though, once the teacher chooses a textbook that doesn't come with one they complain because they have to write down the definitions themselves. And then comes a day when their English studies have advanced and they learn that the word "companion" actually means something good. What a surprise!

    1. So we finally get a really good Latin word on Lexi, and apparently the majority of the Greek population has a problem with it ...

      Tsk. Just can't please some people.