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Pronounced /ˈɒlɪtəri/Help with pronunciation

If it would be overly grand to refer to our vegetable patches as kitchen gardens, how much more so it would be to use olitory to describe them or their products.

It is from Latin (h)olitorius, belonging to a kitchen gardener or vegetables, which in turn is from olus for a potherb or vegetable. The latter is the source of oleraceous, pertaining to a potherb or other vegetable used in cookery, and to olericulture for the process of growing them. All these are pretty much defunct, though words from the same Latin root occasionally turn up as part of the botanical names of useful plants, the best known being Brassica oleracea, whose varieties include cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

It appeared in The Art of Living in Australia by Philip E Muskett, published in 1894. In regretting the paucity of market gardens in that country, he noted that “there is not much reason for congratulation from an olitory point of view” and says “If the potato and the cabbage were taken away, Australia would be almost bereft of vegetables.”

A slightly more recent venture into the public arena is from the US:

The lecture which will begin at two o'clock in the afternoon will take in a large field including the planning and planting of seven period gardens with stress of the olitory (kitchen garden) and the salad bowl garden.

Hagerstown Daily Mail (Maryland), 15 Oct 1959. The pun on field was surely unconscious.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 6 Aug. 2005

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-oli1.htm
Last modified: 6 August 2005.