When the Nintendo game Super Mario Bros. was introduced in 1985, a short, bushy-eyebrowed, shiitake-resembling character called a goomba was introduced as a basic enemy. It soon became quite popular and a staple of the Mario franchise. However, we rarely stop to wonder what its name means. It's sort of a pun: it comes from goombah, a slang word for Italian people (in keeping with the theme of the Mario characters), and gomba is also a Hungarian word for "mushroom". However, goombah has negative connotations and is considered by many to actually be a slur for Italians. The word comes from Sicilian cumpa, which meant something like "mate" or "buddy", and that is from Latin compater, which could mean "godfather" or "first cousin". We can break compater up into con-, meaning "with", and pater, or "father", both being words coming from PIE that I've explained before.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.