There are various kinds of spreads one can put on a bread, made from butter, vegetable oils, or other ingredients. What would be a good general word for these products for use in contemporary Latin?

If at all possible, I would like a word that is not a variation on butyrum or any other word referring to butter. Butter is a kind of spread, and I am looking for a word that would include butter but would include, say, margarine and hummus. I want to translate the noun "spread" to Latin, but it doesn't have to be literally about spreading.

I have posted one suggestion below, but I doubt it's the only option.


2 Answers 2


Savoury spreads: An earlier question on pesto gave two invented answers. Another is Gentleman's Relish, an anchovy flavoured spread that used the mock Latin description 'Patum Peperium,' (also the title of its website) hence patum, and patulum. And yet another invented name could have been added from tapenade, the olive paste from SE France whose root is tapet, tapetia, a carpet, a covering (fr, Greek).

There is also salsa, salsorum, salted foods (Plautus): genuine Latin.

Then there are two spreads: pastes, patées eaten with bread which may be sweet or savoury. Pulmentum seems to be the most appropriate.

pulmentārĭum, ĭi, n. L&S also pulmentum, i, n. contr. from pulpamentum, from pulpa. Any thing eaten with bread, a relish (fruit, salt, mustard, etc.)

crĕmor, ōris, m. (kindr. with cremo, (1)) the thick juice obtained from animal or vegetable substances, broth, purée

The most successful spread with an invented Latin name is Margarine, (culinarylore.com)

Margarine was invented in France by Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès in 1869, during the Franco-Prussian wars. He invented it in response to a competitive challenge from the French government under Napoleon III. His product was pale yellow and had a pleasant buttery smell; it was cheaper than butter and lasted longer (It was a manufactured from beef fat)

The name, based on the Latin word for 'pearl,' comes from the small glistening droplets which appeared during the first successful experiments.

[Mège-Mouriès might easily have chosen to derive the name from lino, linere, to smear or daub; and oleum, olive oil, grease. But fortunately, five years earlier that name had been taken, though not registered,...

Linoleum was invented by an Englishman Frederick Walton in 1855; from 1864 he called it Linoleum, which he derived from the Latin words "linum" (flax) and "oleum" (oil).]

  • +1 for some valid classical options. Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 12:17

A good verb for spreading seems to be pandere. From "spread" one can derive "spreadable", and such derivations are widely attested in classical Latin:

  • facilis < facere
  • fragilis < frangere
  • utilis < uti

An adjective can always be substantivized to mean the thing the verb is applied to. For this specific class of adjectives, two prominent examples come to mind:

  • sedile < sedere
  • missile < mittere

Applying the same derivations to pandere leads to pandile (lit. "spreadable thing"). While I'm not aware of any attestations of this word, it is derived in a natural and attested way. It is conveniently short and should be understandable in context.

As Tom Cotton suggested in a comment, one can also use -men or -mentum. It seems that with third conjugation verbs this is often tied to the verb with -i-, so we get the alternative options pandimen and pandimentum.

  • Might we also consider pandamen or pandamentum?
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 17:46
  • @TomCotton Good idea! According to a quick look-up, it seems that the -a- is only used for first conjugation verbs, whereas the third conjugation gets -imen(tum). I edited that in. (It would be interesting know whether there are hard rules for the choice of vowel before -men(tum); I only looked up some examples.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 22:18
  • I didn't spot that. We learn something new every day!
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 22:29
  • 1
    While pandimen / pandimentum is reasonable - I'm thinking of the Italian condimento (seasoning, condiment) - I would lean towards pandile, as in Italian we say spalmabile for spreadable products, and indeed sometimes (when it's cheese) we may leave it unspecified. Besides, pandere is very similar to the Italian spandere, a synonym of spalmare. Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 11:53

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