Oleum spanum

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Oleum spanum Isidorus est inquit quod ex albis olivis fit quod a grecis onfacon appellatur quod autem ex fulvis: et non maturis fuerit expressum viride appellatur quod vero ex nimium maturis commune dicitur.


spanuʒ C | spanũ A f | spãum B | yspanũ e

oliuis ABC e | oliuis ĩmaturis f

onfacon AC e f | onffacõ B

appellat~ AC e f | uocatur B

quod autem ex fulvis: et non maturis fuerit expressum viride appellatur om. e

nõ maturis AC f | inmaturis B

vero (vero A; u o e f) ex AC e f | si ex B


"Spanish oil" is – as Isidore of Seville says – what is made from ‡white olives, which is called by the Greeks: onfacon. Oil pressed from tawny and unripe olives is called "green oil". Oil made from over-ripe olives is called "the usual oil".

‡"white" here means an olive that has not yet begun to change colour, i.e. entered the ripening process.


This is a near-verbatim quote from the Etymologiae by Isidorus Hispalenis, 17, 7, 68, Oxford edition (1911) [[1]].

The form spanum is a hypercorrect form of hispanum. The 'h' was already silent in late Antiquity and the word was therefore pronounced /ispanum/.

In a different development words with an initial consonant sequence sp- developed a prosthetic vowel isp- e.g. spumosus > ispumosus in Vulgar Latin. This lead to an uncertainty with many speakers when confronted with a word like ispanum whether the initial 'i' was etymological or "vulgar". Obviously for the word in question the wrong conclusion was drawn by one or other copyist. Cf. Väänänen (1981: 47, 48, §§ 82-3).

Greek ὀμφάκιον /omphákion/ means "juice of unripe grapes" but also: "oil made from unripe olives" < ὄμφαξ /ómphax/ "unripe grape".

Wilf Gunther 10/05/2014

See also: Omfacium, Omphacium, Omfacileon oleum

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