Vermicelli, a thin, long type of pasta, has a less-than-appetizing word origin. There are varying standards of what qualifies as vermicelli; the Italians mandate that the diameter must be between 2.08 and 2.30 mm, but internationally those definitions can get a little looser. No matter what the meaning, it's inevitably a loanword from Italian, where it's a plural of vermicello, a term meaning "little worm". While initially shocking, this makes sense considering the shape of the pasta. Vermicello is a diminutive of verme ("worm"), which you can immediately tell is a cognate of the modern-day word worm. That's through Latin vermis, which eventually derives from Proto-Indo-European wrmis , with the same denotation. Usage of the word vermicelli has been decreasing since a peak in the 1780s, when it was apparently abnormally popular.
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.