Sponge Mushrooms

In Swedish, I learned this week, there are two words for mushroom: svamp [svamp] (fungus, mushroom, toadstool, sponge) and champinjon [ɧampɪnˈjuːn] (mushroom) [source].

Svamp comes from the Old Swedish svamper (fungus, mushroom), from Old Norse svampr / svǫppr (sponge, mushroom, ball), from the Proto-Germanic *swammaz / swambaz (sponge, mushroom, fungus, swamp), which is also the root of the English word swamp [source].

The Old English word swamm (mushroom, fungus, sponge), and the Middle English swam (swamp, muddy pool, bog, marsh; fungus, mushroom), come from the same root as well [source].

Mushroom was borrowed from the Anglo-Norman musherum / moscheron (mushroom), from the Old French moisseron (mushroom), possibly from the Old French mosse / moise (moss), from the Frankish *mosa (moss) [source]

Champinjon was borrowed from the French champignon (mushroom, fungus, accelerator), from the Vulgar Latin *campāniolus (grows in the field), from the Late Latin campāneus (pertaining to fields), from Latin campānia (level country), which is also the root of the words campaign and champagne.

Apparently champinjon is used to refer to mushrooms used as food, and was borrowed into Swedish in 1690 [source], while svamp refers to mushrooms and fungi in general.


4 thoughts on “Sponge Mushrooms

  1. German has the same words as Swedish, though with some differences.

    For most speakers the neutral word for mushroom is probably “Pilz”, but some 20 million speakers from Bavarian-speaking areas (Austria, Bavaria, Italian South Tyrol) prefer to call them “Schwammerl” in Standard German. (Sponge is “Schwamm”, BTW.) The meaning of “Champignon” is restricted to the button mushroom, or the French “champignon de Paris”. And “mushroom” is used in the expression “magic mushrooms” which refers to mushrooms used as a psychedelic drug.

  2. Interestingly, Slovak also has a word meaning both “sponge” and “mushroom”: “huba”. It also has the word “hríb”, which means fungi in the Boletus genus or, colloquially, any edible mushroom. “Šampiňón”, just like German “Champignon”, refers to button mushrooms only.

    By the way, being French, I was surprised the first time I saw the word “Champignon” in Germany and I thought “seriously, they don’t have their own word for ‘mushroom’?” I still don’t know why many European languages borrowed our word for “mushroom” to refer to a specific type of mushroom.

  3. Hi,
    Champinjon is the name for mushrooms of the Agariscus family when used as food.
    I have not heard it used as a general term for fungi (for which we say “svamp”).
    Many Swedes say “svamp” for any fungi fruit body, that is the visible part of the organism (most people do not know about the underground mycelium, the “roots” of the fungi), whether they are edible or not.
    A third word for fungus is “sopp”, which is related to “svamp”, and may be dialectal.
    It is true that “svamp” also means sponge (both the bath sponge type,
    and the sea invertebrate animals, which can be found on coral reefs,
    whose skeletons were the original bath sponges, when they had died), but in Sweden this meaning is often clarified as “tvättsvamp” (cleaning sponge), to differentiate it from the edible mushrooms.
    Mattias Persson

  4. In Finnish, a fungus/mushroom is sieni, button mushroom is herkkusieni (‘delicious mushroom’) and a sponge is pesusieni (‘washing fungus’). Pesusieni refers both to sponges used in washing (be it natural or synthetic) and the sea sponge species Spongia officinalis. Sponges as the phylum of animals is called sienieläimet (‘fungus animals’). Slime moulds are called limasieni (‘slime fungus’).

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