Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Avocados, Lawyers, Testicles

Sometimes one thing leads to another when you're talking at home. Recently, it came up that the word for "lawyer" in French (avocat) is the same as the word for "avocado." We agreed that this was odd, but that of course English has its own examples where the same word is used for two disparate meanings.

In this case, though, the French word is clearly similar to the English word, and the word "advocate" is also similar, so I looked up the derivation of avocado. 

Here's what my favorite etymology site, etymonline, had to say:

avocado (n.)
edible, oily fruit of a tree common in the American tropics, 1763, from Spanish avocado, altered (by folk etymology influence of earlier Spanish avocado "lawyer," from same Latin source as advocate (n.)) from earlier aguacate, from Nahuatl (Aztecan) ahuakatl "avocado" (with a secondary meaning "testicle" probably based on resemblance), from proto-Nahuan *pawa "avocado."

I'd had a feeling it was a word that was derived from the Aztecs' language, just from the sound of it, but I had no idea the path it took. It turned turned out it did mean lawyer (in Spanish) first, then overtook another word that was more specific to the fruit but sounded similar. That word had been a Spanish corruption of a Nahuatl word for a fruit whose name had nothing to do with water, but was turned into something to do with water because the first half sounded like the Spanish word for water.

I wonder if anyone every gets lawyers and avocados confused in French or Spanish? Context can mostly make it clear, of course. But what if there's an attorney representing a company that grows or exports/imports avocados? 


Michael Leddy said...

I knew, somehow, the connection to male anatomy, but had long forgotten it. I didn’t know about the lawyerly connection. And the Spanish for “lawyer” is “abogado.”

My favorite name for the avocado is “alligator pear,” though I’ve never used it in earnest.

Daughter Number Three said...

Oh, right, "abogado"! Rereading the etymonline wording, I realize it's saying that an earlier Spanish version of the word for lawyer was "avocado," rather than the current version of the word.

Daughter Number Three said...

Does it make you wonder if there are examples of Spanish lyrics rhyming avocado and abogado? (Would it count as a rhyme?)

Jean said...

Oh, I hope so. That would be fun. I know the Avocado song by Spencer the Gardener (from the Organic Gangster album), which has 'avocado' in several languages, but he doesn't rhyme them. Anyway, I am tickled to know this etymology and thank you! (Pretty sure I'd heard the anatomy part though.)