Green beans are, in Spanish, "judías verdes" - why? What is the connection? Were Jewish people known for eating a lot of green beans, or what?

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    Must there be a connection at all? Is it always the case with homonyms? (I'm asking, I honestly don't know). Anyway, since no one seems to be linking to this already here's an interesting related link. I hope it helps. – Diego Jun 16 '15 at 16:20
  • Granada fruit comes from latin "granatum", this from latin "granum" (Spanish "Grano" is derived from here). Probably the arabs used the fruit latin name for the city (Adapted to arabic language as "Garnata)". – user9223 Jun 16 '15 at 20:14
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    +1 This made me laugh. – Joze Jun 17 '15 at 10:08

Green beans weren't brought to Europe until after the discovery of the Americas, so it's doubtful it was named that because of the Jews. The DLE gives the etymology as "perhaps" from judío, but doesn't claim to be definitive.

As pure speculation, recall some of the phonetic changes that occurred in various words Spanish: x (pronounced line English sh) went to j, interior o went to u, f went to an aspirated h went to silent or possibly to j, the d/l/r showed some variability... Thus a word like "hada" is, believe it or not, cognate with "fairy"

So if judía didn't come from judío, it may have come from some earlier word like xodío, xurío, forío, etc.

And, of course, there may have been another bean like plant called judía (for whichever reason that may be) that in turn gave its name to the American one. That is, based on my rather cursory research, the most probable reason.

  • That reminds me of the movie "The Butterfly" or similar, about the Spanish Civil War, where the fact that spuds and corn come from the Americas is mentioned. – B. Clay Shannon Jun 16 '15 at 15:20
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    I would not be so sure that this word does not come from judío. There are other cases, such as the English word turkey; this word is taken from the name of the country, Turkey, and was first used in the USA, even though the animal is originally American. – Gorpik Jun 17 '15 at 17:41

As native Spanish speakers we often consider judía (member of the Jewish religious community) and judía (bean, not only green beans) as simply homonymous words. However, Google has taken me to this interesting article that seems to believe that there is indeed a connection between the two.

First, it disputes a previously assumed ethimologic origin:

La Academia la trajo siempre sin etimología hasta la edición de 1956, en la que le atribuyó esta: "del ár. ŷudiyāˀ, alubia". Pero la palabra ŷudiyāˀ, que en el sistema de transcripción que usaban entonces y que todavía muchos arabistas españoles se resisten a abandonar equivale a جُدْيَاء ǧudyāˀ, es una palabra absolutamente inexistente en los diccionarios de la lengua árabe, tanto los árabe-árabe como los árabe-lenguas europeas. Así que vaya usted a saber quién se la inventó y cómo y por qué lo hizo, pero lo que es seguro es que alguien se la tuvo que inventar.

Later, it goes on to suggest a possible connection between the words judía (Jew) and judía (bean):

Si en Oriente se llamaba baqla yahūdiyya literalmente "verdura judía", a las cerrajas, Sonchus oleraceus L., por la costumbre de comerlas como hierbas amargas (מָרוֹר mārōr) en la primera noche de la Pascua judía; en al-Andalus este nombre de baqla yahūdiyya se le daba al gringuelé, Corchorus olitorius L., porque formaba parte de las costumbres culinarias de los oriundos del Levante del Mediterráneo. Había también una šawka yahūdiyya lit. "cardo judío", fitónimo del eringio o cardo corredor, Eryngium campestre L., cuya raíz dulce se comía. También al bedelio, Commiphora mukul (Hook.) Engl. [= Balsamodendron mukul Hook.], como se daba en Palestina, se le llamaba muql al-yahūd "bedelio de los judíos" (aunque otros preferían llamarlo muql ˁarabī "bedelio árabe"). Y a la amapola macho Papaver argemone L. se le llamaba ḫašḫāš yahūdī "adormidera judía".

Pues podría haber sido un caso como estos, en los que se haya quedado "judía" porque se le llamase "hab(ichuel)a judía", o "alubia judía". En español hay más casos de fitónimos que indican procedencia geográfica o atribución a algún pueblo remoto como el arabismo "sandía" (del Sind) o el arabolatino "albérchigo" (de Persia) y en latín también se decía "punica" (cartaginesa) a la granada o "medica" (kurda) a la alfalfa, y el español "betónica" viene de vettonica atribuido a los vetones de la antigua Celtiberia.

No encuentro en español la expresión de "habichuela judía" o "alubia judía", pero en catalán de Mallorca sí que la hay, y, además, para denominar a una de aquellas especies precolombinas de al-Andalus que el Alcover trae como segunda acepción de fesol (...)

So, while the origin of the word Judía is actually unknown, there does seem to be a possible connection between these vegetables and the Jews.


Indeed, it is probable that derived from Jewish. Are other plants whose name derives from its geographical origin or some people who supposedly eats, as mandarina (Citrus reticulata) ["an official of the imperial China"]. In Chile we eat a type of lettuce which we call española ("Spanish").

There are probably other examples of similar words in other countries and languages.

  • French fries are another example. So spuds go from the Americas to Europe, then the Europeans greasify them and send them back to America with Tom Jefferson in an effort to slowly poison the Yankees and fatten them up for the slaughter. In "Tortilla Flat" a Mexican kid eats nothing but tortillas and "green jews" and is very healthy in spite of his "Univorsity." – B. Clay Shannon Jun 16 '15 at 15:38
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    I find it hard to believe that "granada" fruit is named after the city. The fruit almost certainly gets its name because it's full of large, grain-like seeds ("granos.") This also seems logical because the word is grenade in France, a long way from Granada (and grenade is used in native form in French/Spanish and untranslated in English to mean the weapon which resembles the fruit.) It seems more likely that the city is named after fruit, which is on its coat of arms. But en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomegranate claims that the similarity is just a coincidence (making the coat of arms a pun) – Level River St Jun 16 '15 at 17:56
  • And in German it's "Granatapfel" or "grenade apple" which is basically what it looks like, if you're of a martial bent and hungry at the same time. – B. Clay Shannon Jun 17 '15 at 18:24

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