The word potpourri in French was pot pourri, which literally means "rotten pot"! This is because the original potpourri was a stew with random things thrown in (thus its definition of "miscellaneous collection"), and in many instances this was not, shall we say, the most delicious meal. Pot pourri is a calque (a translation of a phrase into native words) of the Spanish term olla podrida, with the same meaning. Pot itself, through Middle and Old French, derives from the Latin word pottus, which in turn is from Proto-Germanic puttaz, the etymon of the English word pot, and another word meaning "jar" or "pot". Finally, pot traces to Proto-Indo-European budn, "vessel". This is only one theorized origin; there are some other hypotheses as well. Now to pourri: like putrid, it comes from Latin putrere, which meant "to decay". That in turn is thought to be from a Proto-Indo-European root sounding like pu, with the definition "stink", because of Sanskrit cognates. So, together, beyond just the "rotten pot" definition, potpourri means "stink vessel" as well.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd