OED traces the "salad" family of words (Portuguese salada, Fra. salate, Spa. ensalada, Ita. insalata etc.) to spoken Latin *salāta, from the verb salāre.

One notices that salāta as well as all its descendants are feminine. My question is, what is the feminine noun that the participle is implied to be modifying? It is a salted what?

  • 1
    btw, in German "Salat" is masculine.
    – fdb
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 20:36
  • 6
    It sounds a prime candidate for a neuter plural being reinterpreted as a feminine singular. Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 6:53
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    Stipulation: Because it's elided from a compound, plantname salata, salted leaves of plant so and so. The partucular plant (brasica?) doesn't matter much at this point, plants are simply feminine, often enough.
    – vectory
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 16:14
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    The etymological dictionaries usually trace it to Italian insalata, cf. "Empr. à l'ital. du Nord salada, salata, ital. insalata (att. au sens 1 dep. fin xiiie-déb. xives., Cenne de La Chitarra; dér. insalatuzza ds Boccace, Décaméron ds Batt.), part. passé de salare, insalare « saler », du lat. tardif salare, insalare « id. », dér. de sal, -is (sel*). Voir FEW t. 11, p. 82b et 84a, et Hope, pp. 49-50." cnrtl.fr/etymologie/salade
    – Alex B.
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 16:45
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    btw, one of the first attestations of insalata (a feminine noun in Italian) is Domenico Cavalca (c. 1270-1342): "fece un'insalata di erbe, e con poco d'aceto e oglio cenarono." (Grande dizionario della lingua italiana) gdli.it/sala-lettura/vol/8?seq=85 cf. Zingarelli 2021, "av. 1342"
    – Alex B.
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


It could easily originally be a neuter plural: salata — "salted things".

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