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Zingiber proferunt greci et scribunt ziggiber per geminum .g. zingibil vero arabes, Dya. arbor est nascens in arabia: plurimum eius coma frequenter utuntur incole sicut nos ruta maxime ad manducare adhibetur, sunt vero radices minute sicut ciperi subalbido colore habentes sicut piperis gustum odore suavi, eligendo vero est non pertusum et grave quod multi condiunt pro putredine et mittunt in vasis cui addunt mel coctum et reponunt et Italis transmittunt et cetera.


The Greeks pronounce it zingiber, but they write it with double 'g': ziggiber; but the Arabs say zingibil. Here is what Dyascorides has to say: The {ginger} tree grows in Arabia, the inhabitants often use the greenery like we use ruta {"rue"}; it is best taken in a meal, and its tiny roots are like those of cyperos {?"galingale"}, rather whitish in colour; in taste it is like piper {"pepper"} with a sweet smell. It must be collected when it has no (worm)-holes and when it is heavy, and many preserve it because of it rotting {easily}, and they put it in earthen-ware containers, to which they add cooked honey and store it and they send it to the Italians, etc. {The original Latin text continues, saying: {the Italians} who eagerly tend to use it crushed with sauce}.


Simon's text is a near verbatim quote ultimately from Dioscorides Longobardus, 2, 146, ed. Stadle (1899: 243): De zinziber. For the original Greek text, cf. 2, 160, ed. Wellmann (1906-14: I.226).

Simon comments on the Greek spelling habit, where the sounds /ng/ are written as 'gg', a convention still alive in Modern Greek, cf. Άγγλία /Agglía/, but pronounced: /Anglía/ "England".

The Greek word for "ginger" is ζιγγίβερις /zingíberis/ or ζιγγίβερι /zingíberi/, and from there it went to the Romans in a number of variant forms: zingiberi, zingiber, zinziber, zimpiberi. From Latin the word spread into most Western European languages.

The Arabic word is quoted by Wehr (1976) and Siggel (1950: 40) as ﺯﻧﺠﺒﻴﻞ /zanğabīl/ "ginger".

Seen etymologically, the word "ginger" is a typical Wanderwort, i.e. a word found in many languages, often along trade routes. For a detailed investigation into all aspects of the etymology of ginger cf. Ross (1952); and Innes Miller (1969: 53-7).

Botanical identification:

Ginger, Zingiber officinale Roscoe, is originally a native of tropical Asia where its cultivation has a long history. The plant forms a shallow rhizome, which is dug up and prepared involving washing, soaking, peeling and drying, even boiling.

See also: Zengibil

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