Monday, 29 September 2014

Dessert - A Sweet Etymology

Of course, I may just have chosen to cover dessert so I could gorge myself on photos of delicious food ...
(photo by Ralph Dally)


Noun. Mid-16th century.
[French, use as noun of part participle of desservir clear the table, from des- removal + servir to serve.]

A course of fruit, nuts, sweets, etc., served at the end of a meal.
Also (originally US) a pudding or sweet course.

Regular readers of Lexicolatry might be a little confused by this entry, as surely everything one needs to know about the word dessert has already been covered in the post Is It 'Just Deserts' or 'Just Desserts'? However, no! For the word dessert has its very own fascinating etymological secrets to offer us, namely in that it's derived from the French verb meaning 'to clear the table'.

"Wonderful!" you think, "but how might this gem of knowledge benefit me in any way?" Well, I say just think of the next time you're at a dinner party and the host announces: "Dessert is served!" Ah ha! How humorously oxymoronic! Just think how enamoured all attendees will be as you regale them with the etymology of dessert, perhaps followed by a second course of the desert vs dessert question, and then finished off with a history of, say, chocolate, or biscuits, or perhaps the fact that saying The Sahara Desert is, literally, saying The Desert Desert.

Armed with these lexicological wonders, you need never worry about being invited to a dinner party again.

Oh ... my ... 
(photo by Kimberly Vardeman)
Do please do us the (dis)service of leaving your sweetest comments in the box below.


  1. What's that on that last picture? Is it a Pavlova???? :sigh:
    Trust the French to invent a word for all the world to use - and abuse... while they remain thin because for them dessert is start stacking the dishes and head into the kitchen. Did I get this right?
    Because I won't spoil dessert by telling the story and then have everyone looking at me with the usual why-on-earth-would-you-care-to-know-these-things-? but I might smile as if I'm being served an extra of cream ahahahah

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