Peaches, grapes and quinces

An interesting word that came up in my Spanish lessons this morning was durazno [duˈɾasno], which is a peach in Latin American. In Spain a peach is a melocotón [melokoˈton].

Yummy peach!

Durazno comes from the Latin dūracinus, which means ‘hard-berried’, from dūrus (hard) acinus (berry, grape). It originally referred to grapes used for eating rather than wine-making. Later is was also used for other fruits with a central stone, such as peaches [source].

Other words from the same root include:

  • Arabic: دُرَّاق‎‎ (durrāq) – peach
  • French: duracine – a variety of peach with firm flesh
  • Greek: ροδάκινο (rodákino) – peach
  • Italian: duracina – clingstone (peach), bigaroon (a type of cherry)
  • Quechua: turasnu – peach
  • San Juan Colorado Mixtec: durastun – peach
  • Tetelcingo Nahuatl: trösno – peach

A clingstone is a type of fruit with a stone that clings to the flesh, such as a peach [source]. The antonym is freestone, a type of fruit with a stone that doesn’t cling to the flesh (much).

The Quechua, Mixtec and Nahuatl words were borrowed from Spanish. The Arabic word came from the Ancient Greek δωράκινον (dōrákinon).

Melocotón comes from the Latin mālum cotōnium (quince – “apple of Cydonia”), from mālum (apple) and cotōnium (quince tree) [source].

The English word quince comes from the same root via the Old French cooing (quince), and the Late Latin cotōneum (quince) [source].

Cydonia or Kydonia (Κυδωνία) was a city in northwest Crete in the site of modern Chania (Χανιά) [source].

The English word peach comes from the Middle English peche (peach), borrowed from the Old French pesche (peach), from the Vulgar Latin *pessica (peach) from the Late Latin persica (peach), from the Classical Latin mālum persicum (peach, “Persian apple”), from the Ancient Greek μᾶλον περσικόν (mâlon persikón – peach, “Persian apple”) [source].

The scientific name for peach is Prunus persica (“Persian prune”), and comes from the old belief that peaches were native to Persian, and because peaches are related to plums. They are in fact native to the north west of China [source].

3 thoughts on “Peaches, grapes and quinces

  1. One of my favorite fruits is the nectarine, which is sort of halfway between a peach and a plum, having a peach-colored flesh and a smooth, plum-like skin. I’m not sure why it’s called a nectarine, since it doesn’t really have “nectar”. When peach-like fruit is made into what is called a nectar, like apricot nectar, the fruit is ground up and mixed with fruit juices such as apple and pear juice to add flavor.

    Where I live, apricot nectar is not as commonly available as it used to be, but if you can find some and haven’t experienced it before, try some. It’s yummy.

  2. It seems, then that Cotoneaster (the genus of red-berried trees and shrubs containing a number of popular garden ornamentals) means ‘resembling a quince’. I have to say that the resemblance is not immediately obvious (whilst a peach has, at least, a similarly wooly texture to a quince). The fruit of Cotoneaster spp. is anatomically equivalent to a quince (a pome, to use the botanical term – like apples, pears, rowan berries and certain others in the family Rosaceae), although very different in size and colour. It is possible that some of the more tree-like species of Cotoneaster resemble a quince tree in form and foliage.

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