Unraveling the Linguistic Origins of “Soup”: Exploring the Naming Conundrum

The word “soup” is a staple in our culinary vocabulary, used to describe a wide variety of dishes across cultures. But have you ever wondered where this term originated? Why is it called “soup” instead of “湯” (tang), the Chinese word for soup, or why it isn’t named after any of the ingredients that go into making soup, such as egg white or chicken broth? This article aims to unravel the linguistic origins of “soup” and explore the naming conundrum.

The Etymology of “Soup”

The English word “soup” traces its roots back to the Late Latin term “suppa,” which means “bread soaked in broth.” This term was borrowed by the Old French as “soupe.” This word was then adopted into Middle English around the 17th century as “soup” or “sop,” referring to a liquid dish. It’s interesting to note that the word “sop” was used to describe a piece of bread used to soak up soup or a thick stew.

Why “Soup” and not “Tang”?

The reason why English speakers use “soup” instead of “tang” or any other foreign term is largely due to the evolution and development of the English language. English, like all languages, borrows words from other languages, but it also has its own linguistic development. The term “soup” came into use in English through the influence of French and Latin, which had a significant impact on the English language, especially after the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Why Not Named After Ingredients?

As for why soup isn’t named after its ingredients, this is likely due to the versatile nature of the dish. Soup can be made with almost any ingredient, and there are thousands of variations. Naming it after one specific ingredient would limit the scope of what could be considered “soup.” Furthermore, the essence of soup is more about the process of preparation – simmering ingredients in liquid until their flavors are extracted – rather than the ingredients themselves.


In conclusion, the word “soup” has a rich linguistic history, influenced by Latin and French. Its name reflects not only the dish’s preparation process but also the cultural and linguistic influences that have shaped the English language over centuries. So, the next time you enjoy a bowl of soup, you’ll appreciate not just its taste, but also the fascinating history of its name.