Marmite, of course, is a salty yeast extract widespread in Great Britain that's generated as much controversy as pineapple on pizza. Turns out that even its etymology is against it! The English word comes from a French term spelled the same which meant "earthenware pot", because that's what marmite was first sold in. Now, it's quite possible that this in turn comes from an Old French word meaning "hypocrite", under the connection that the contents of marmite jars was hidden, just like the true intentions of a hypocrite. Hold on: it gets even weirder! That earlier definition of the word was "muttering cat", because everybody knows cats are hypocritical and selfish. This in turn is thought to be composed of the onomatopoeic verb marmotter ("to mutter") and the word mite, or "cat". While marmotter is imitative, not unlike mutter itself, mite is a cognate with the English word mite, meaning "small creature" and likely coming from a Latin root meaning that as well.
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.