Marinara sauce first started getting popularized in America by Italian immigrants in the mid-twentieth century, and there are scattered references to it throughout the 1900s. It was first mentioned in the Italian cookbook Lo Scalco alla Moderna (or "The Modern Steward"), which was written in the 1690s and described a kind of sauce that was more like salsa than what we know today. The word is the Italian feminine singular of marinaro, meaning either "seafaring" or "sailor", and the reason for this is uncertain. It may have been invented by Neapolitan sailors returning from the New World, where they first encountered the tomato. Alternatively, it might have been prepared by the wives of those sailors when they returned from their voyages. Marinaro is from marino and Latin mare, meaning "sea", and those ultimately derive from the Proto-Indo-European root mer, also meaning "sea".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.