Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

crescent is the English term applied to baked goods whose form resembles a waxing moon. This use of the word first entered the language in the late nineteenth century as a loan translation of the French croissant and occurs alongside the French word, which was directly borrowed into English at roughly the same time. See croissant. “Crescent” is also applied to the many similarly shaped baked goods of Central Europe that predate and presumably gave rise to the French croissant. Textual and linguistic evidence points to the origin of this family in the Bavarian dialect area of southern Germany and Austria, where Kipfel (sing. and pl.) and Kipferl (pl. Kipferln) are traditional crescent-shaped items; the former is attested in a text by the late thirteenth century. In Switzerland one finds the closely related Gipfeli. The names of these crescent-shaped items are derived from the word meaning “wagon stanchion”; such stanchions were typically curved and ended in a point (as can be seen in the heraldic use of the term Kipfel), thus resembling a horn.