Orange: Spread Outside China

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

During the first centuries of the Christian era the orange began to spread beyond China, as the citron had done earlier. It reached Japan well before the earliest surviving Japanese literature was written (the 8th century), but it has always been less important there than fruits of the mandarin type. It also reached India in early times: a medical treatise of about AD 100, the Charaka Samhita, mentions it for the first time by what was to become its modern name, ‘naranga’. This word is said to be derived from an older Sanskrit term narunga (fruit like elephants). ‘Naranga’ became naranj in Persian and Arabic, narantsion in late classical Greek, and aurantium (influenced by aurum, ‘gold’) in Late Latin, from which it is only a short step to the Italian arancia and French and English ‘orange’.