The most common theory behind the origin of the word mayonnaise, espoused by food blogs everywhere, is that the condiment name's history hails back to the Seven Year's War, specifically the Battle of Minorca, which was the first European naval battle of the conflict and a complete British screw-up. The French handily won, executed the English admiral, and bragged about it to any person or nation that would listen. It got so out of hand that they took the capital of Minorca, Mao (which could be stylized as Mahon) and the suffix -aise (which has to do with denoting the quality of being from a location), and used their new word of mayonnaise to describe a new sauce which had just been invented, so they could rub it in some more. However, there are some problems with this etymology. The timeline doesn't match up perfectly; etymologists only tentatively cite it as the most likely origin. It could be a corruption from Bayonnaise ("from the city of Bayonne"), from the Old French word moyeu, meaning "egg", or from the verb manier, meaning "to handle". It's certainly a sticky situation!
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.