A milquetoast is a person who's meek and not very proactive. The word, curiously enough, is named after a comic strip character: Caspar Milquetoast from H.T. Webster's The Timid Soul. In the comic, he is portrayed as an indecisive, timid man, and he was so popular back in the 1930s that his name slipped into the general vernacular to describe somebody with a similar personality. When Webster named him, he chose milquetoast as an intentional misspelling of milk toast, a bland food considered to be unadventurous and good for meek people like Casper. The q further made it look effeminate. Milk comes from Old English meolc, from Proto-Germanic meluks, from Proto-Indo-European hmelg, which still had the same meaning (because this is something very basic that would remain constant in definition over time). Toast has a bit more interesting origin that I want to save for later, so let me just say it traces to Latin torrere, which meant "to burn". Ironically, milquetoast also became the name for a cockroach character in Berke Breathed's Bloom County comic.
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.