Monday 24 June 2013

Calories in the Cauldron

A calorie is the amount of energy required to raise 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. Or at least, that's the small calorie. The large calorie is the one that raises a whole kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius. The point of all this is that calorie comes from the Latin calor meaning heat.

Calor was closely related to calidus, which meant hot. And that's why the Romans called a cooking pot a caldaria. And that's why the French called a cooking pot a cauderon. And that's why the English called a cooking pot a caudron. And then, in the fifteenth century, some Latin scholar pointed out that, etymologically, there should be an L in it, and that's why we call it a cauldron.

A cauldron full of calories.

Which is a long way round of reminding you that I'm talking at the Cauldron in North London tonight.


  1. Hello Mark, does the word Caldera share the same origin as well?

    P.S.:- I thoroughly enjoyed reading both Horologicon and Etymologicon. For a word lover like myself, I couldn't have asked for more! Eagerly anticipating your next!

  2. Have thoroughly enjoyed both books and I now wish for a "Stundenlexicon" ... Would love to be able to compare these two languages for beautiful (and long) words and their roots.

  3. Ravie - you beat me to it, i wondered about Caldera and came to the same conclusion - they are bowl shaped and would have contained a hot liquid when formed.

    Laurie -

  4. Calor also occurs in Ed Moran's etymology of California:

    California, n.:
    From Latin "calor", meaning "heat" (as in English "calorie" or Spanish "caliente"); and "fornia'" for "sexual intercourse" or "fornication." Hence: Tierra de California, "the land of hot sex."

    (From the 'too good to be true' pile...)