Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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bonbon a French term often used for any small sweet or candy. It has entered many other languages, becoming bombom in Spanish, and bombom in Portuguese. It was adopted into English around the end of the 18th century and, according to Ayto (1993), ‘probably reached its heyday as a more delicate alternative to the foursquare sweet [see also sweeties] in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, when bonbonnières (small decorated boxes for holding sweets) graced fashionable sideboards and tables’.

The general use of the word bonbon in French to refer to a sweetmeat or ‘goody’ is recorded as early as the beginning of the 17th century. Originally a child’s term for a friandise, or sweet delicacy, it now refers, ‘broadly speaking, to a multitude of sugar based products flavoured with fruits and essences, in a variety of shapes, made by confectioners; and the term bonbon de chocolat is also in use for items with chocolate centres’. The explanation is from the fine encyclopedia of épicerie by Seigneurie (1898).