According to one dictionary’s definition, the English word condiment refers to ‘something used to enhance
the flavor of food; especially a pungent seasoning’ (MW). Another definition gives
us some examples of condiments in its definition: ‘a substance such as salt, mustard,
or pickle that is used to flavor food’ (COED). Seeing the word pickle in the definition may seem odd to
some, but as we shall see, pickling was part of the original meaning of the word
condiment. Another dictionary (OALD) mentions
that a condiment may come to the table alongside the food, not necessarily in it,
though it also says that is sense is found especially in North America and not
in dialects of English outside North America. The OED adds another interesting
aspect to the meaning of condiment
that other dictionaries do not mention, namely that it is ‘anything of
pronounced flavor used to season or give relish to food, or to stimulate the appetite’.
Eng. condiment /ˈkɒn.dɪ.mənt/ comes Old French condiment, from Latin condīmĕntum ‘spice,
seasoning, sauce’, a noun derived from the fourth conjugation verb condīre (condiō, condīre, condīvī, condītum), with the noun suffix ‑ment‑ (cond+i+ment+um)
(cf. Part I, Chapters 5 and 8). Lat. condīre
meant first of all ‘to put fruit
in vinegar, wine, spices, etc., to
preserve, pickle’ and, derived from it, ‘to embalm, mummify’ (LS). Secondarily,
when said of food, this verb could also mean ‘to make savory, to season, spice’.
French borrowed the noun condiment
from Latin in the 13th century and English borrowed it from French in
the 15th century. Spanish condimento
is supposedly a loanword from Latin but given the fact that it does not appear in
writing until the 16th century, it is quite likely that Spanish got it
indirectly from Latin through French, just as English did.
Spanish has an archaic, if not obsolete, patrimonial verb condir derived from Lat. condīre, which means ‘to season’.
Old Spanish had a second, unrelated verb condir,
this one descended from Lat. condĕre
‘to put together, build, establish, etc.’, and which is truly obsolete nowadays.
There is a remnant of the verb condĕre
in our languages, however, namely the cognate nouns Eng. condition and Sp. condición,
which come from Latin condĭtĭo
(stem: condĭtĭōn‑), which in Latin meant ‘a making,
creating’, and in Medieval Latin ‘status, position, circumstances’. It is derived from the passive participle
stem condĭt‑ of the verb condĕre and the ‑iōn‑ ending used to form
nouns out of verbs. There was another
identical noun condĭtĭo in Latin, this one derived from the Latin
verb condīre ‘to season’,
which is the source of condiment. It
meant ‘a preserving of fruits’ or ‘a spicing, seasoning, flavoring’ (‘the act of
seasoning’). This noun, however, not been passed on to either English or Spanish.
From the nouns Eng. condiment
and Sp. condimento, both English and Spanish
have created verbs meaning ‘to season’. English has the verb tocondiment,
which is a rare alternative to the verb toseason. In Spanish, the verb Sp. condimentar, which was first mentioned
in the DRAE only in 1843, has become a common alternative to the verb sazonar, the traditional verb that meant
‘to season’ and a cognate of the English verb to season. Sp. sazonar is
perhaps becoming obsolete in at least some Spanish dialects. This could be because
condimentar has a noun it goes with, condimento, whereas sazonar does not anymore, as we shall see in the next section.
Eng. season and Sp. sazonar
Perhaps the most common verb that expresses the act of adding
condiments to food in English is toseason /ˈsi.zən/.
Its primary meaning is ‘to improve or enhance the flavor of (food) by adding salt,
spices, herbs, or other flavorings’. The noun seasoning /ˈsi.zən.ɪŋ/, as well as its less common synonym seasoner, are derived from this verb.
These nouns refer to ‘something, such as a spice or herb, used to flavor food’,
as well as to ‘the act or process by which something is seasoned’ (AHD).
You may wonder if the verb to season is related to the noun season, which means primarily ‘each of the four divisions of the
year (spring, summer, autumn, and winter)’ (COED). It certainly does, though it
is a bit of a long story. The noun season
came into English in the 13th century, as a loanword from the Old French
noun saison, with a same meaning it has
today. The word comes ultimately from Latin noun stem sătĭōn‑ ‘a sowing, planting’,
formed from the past-participle stem săt‑
of the verb serēre ‘to sow,
plant’ and the noun suffix ‑iōn‑
(cf. Part II, Chapter 8;
the nominative singular case form was sătĭō, and the accusative one sătĭōnem).
However, the Latin noun sătĭōn‑
changed its meaning in Vulgar Latin from ‘act
of sowing’ to ‘time of sowing’ and,
in particular, the spring, which was the main sowing season. From this meaning,
the descendant of this word in French came to have the meaning it has today, namely
one of the four divisions of the year.
In other Romance languages, the noun meaning ‘season’ comes from
a different source, such as Lat. station‑,
cf. It. stagione and Sp. estación, the same word that means
‘station’. Spanish estación is
obviously a loanword from Latin and not a patrimonial word. (If it were
patrimonial, it would have been *estazón,
just like Lat. sătĭōn‑
resulted in sazón.) Lat. stătĭō‑ is a noun formed from
the stem stăt‑ of the
passive participle stătus of the verb
stāre ‘to stand; to stay,
remain’, the source of Sp. estar.
originally meant ‘something that is standing or stationary’ but it soon came to
mean ‘a place where persons or things stay or abide, a
station, post, an abode, residence’. This
was not, however, the word for ‘season’ in Latin. The Latin term for season was
tempus (anni) ‘time (of the year)’.
What does this have to do with adding flavor to foods? It seems
that the connection between ‘harvest time’ and that of ‘adding flavor’ had an
intermediary. From the French noun saisson,
a derived verb assaisoner developed
in this language that meant ‘to ripen, to season’, i.e. ‘to be or become in the
season’ (as‑saison‑er). Since foods become
more flavorful as they ripen, by analogy, the verb assaisoner came eventually to mean ‘to season’, i.e. to add flavor,
as when a fruit ripens. English, instead of borrowing this verb, just turned the
noun season into a verb, toseason,
with an equivalent meaning, which is the meaning it has today. The English verb
toseason, meaning ‘to improve the flavor of by adding spices’, is first
attested in the late 14th century. From this verb then it derived the
nouns seasoning and seasoner.
The Spanish patrimonial cognate of Fr. saison and Eng. season is
sazón, but it is a false friend. The noun
sazón is already present in the earliest
Spanish writings (MioCid), where it meant primarily ‘sowing
time’, a sense that is now obsolete. There was also a derived meaning in Old
Spanish for the word sazón, namely ‘time,
period, season’. This sense of the word is now archaic. The noun sazón nowadays is quite rare but its
main meaning is ‘seasoning’ as well as ‘taste, flavor’ and, in the context of fruit,
‘ripe’, as in the expression estarensazón
‘to be ripe’, which is rare. There is a literary expression formed with this noun,
alasazón, which means ‘at that time’,
which is also rare nowadays, though it is found in older writings. The noun sazón, perhaps because it came to have a
multiplicity of senses, came into disuse.
The verb sazonar, developed
in Spanish out of the noun sazón, probably
under the influence of Fr. saisoner,
so we can say that the two are cognates, and thus Sp. sazonar is also cognate with the English verb to season. The verb is more common than the noun and it is first attested
in writing in the late 15th century. However, condimentar (see previous section) has become more common in Modern
Spanish, at least in most dialects.
Some words derived from the noun sazón are more common than this noun itself. The noun desazón, an antonym of sazón, meant originally ‘lack of flavor,
tastelessness, insipidness’, but it came to mean figuratively ‘grief,
affliction, worry, feeling of unease’. That word is attested first in the 17th
century and is still in use today, though it is mostly a literary word. Among
the synonyms of desazón in Spanish we find the words inquietud, ansiedad, and desasosiego.
Related to the noun desazón
are the verb desazonar, which
originally meant ‘to make tasteless’, but which figuratively came to mean ‘to
annoy, upset, make uneasy, worry’. Two synonyms of this verb are inquietar and intranquilizar. This verb is less common than the noun it is
derived from. Derived from the verb’s past participle is the converted
adjective desazonado/a, which also
has both senses: the literal ‘insipid’ (synonym of soso/a ‘bland, tasteless, unsalted’) and the figurative ‘uneasy,
verb is derived from the Latin verb condēre
‘to put away, store’. This verb is composed of the prefix con‑ ‘together’ and the combining form ‑dēre of the verb dāre ‘to
give’, the source of Sp. dar ‘to
principal parts of the verb serēre
were (serō, serēre, sēvī, satum). The root of this verb goes back to
Proto-Indo-European root seh1‑
from which we also get Eng. seed and semen, as well as its Spanish
equivalents Sp. semilla ‘seed’ and semen. Eng. seed is patrimonial word and Eng. semen, just like its Spansih cognate semen, is a learned borrowing from Lat. sēmen ‘seed’. Sp. semilla
is thought to come ultimately from Lat. semīnĭa,
plural of semīnĭum.
The word came presumably through a Mozarabic dialect and in the 17th
century, it came to replace the traditional word for ‘seed’ in Old Spanish, simiente, also from the same root. Both
of these words are derived from Lat. sēmen
 An additional
meaning of season is derived from the
primary one, namely ‘a period of the year characterized by an activity or event,
especially a particular sport’ (COED), e.g. hunting
season, school season, footballseason.