A lot of people just assume that the word parsnip is a combination of parsley and turnip. Well, not really. As parsnip developed into existence from the Old French word pasnaie, the -nip ending was indeed added by influence of turnip, but the rest was unique. Anyway, pasnaie (which could also be a euphemism for "penis") comes from Latin pastinaca, which meant both "parsnip" and "carrot". This in turn derives from pastinum, which meant something like "two-pronged fork or spade", because they have a similar shape. Although this has an unknown etymology officially, I'm guessing it comes from a word for "dig" (based on a connection to pastinare, with that meaning), possibly because of the "spade" connection. It might not even be Indo-European; just some wild guesses. Although it was borrowed in the 1300s, the word parsnip has had relatively constant usage since the late 1700s.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-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 College in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd