Carboy… Did you ever wonder about its derivative?

[This image is borrowed from the Wikipedia site, as their example.]

During this time of harvest, this is a good word to know, if you don’t already know it.

Carboy is a common term in winemaking. I’ve heard it now for about two decades, always wondering about the derivative. It’s usually talked about in wine cellars, and is a vessel used for a small fermentation. This is a clue as to whom else you might know that would use one with frequency: home winemakers, home brewers, and cider makers.

So, I dug around and found what gave birth to that name, because within the name, there’s no obvious clue. It turns out that it’s from the Persian word “qarabah” (قرابه), and from Arabic qarraba, meaning “big jug.”

All I can deduce from this is that the pronunciation is close enough to “carboy” that that’s what it’s become in English. If you think about the words “car” and “boy,” the name for this vessel makes no real sense; but the “q” in qarabah has a “c” and/or “k” sound, just as Arabic for the “Koran” is “Qur’an.” Now pronounce the Arabic “garabah” and you’ll see how we went from the Arabic word to our Anglo pronunciation. (How many times have you sung a song with the words being what you heard, but slightly off from the true lyrics?)

Usually a carboy is fitted with a rubber stopper and a fermentation lock. This prevents oxygen and bacteria from entering the vessel during the fermentation process, which in a small vessel is really important. I’ve had only one experience at winemaking, taking my Zin grapes and putting them into a vessel, which wasn’t a carboy. Within two days I had the best mold culture going in my neighborhood, and decided that I’m a better marketer than a winemaker. I can write about wines, and winemakers can share their wine… It’s a great union; the player and the cheerleader…

Carboys are 5 gallon jugs, and the glass is super hard, which is more shatter resistant than other glass. This is not only important in winemaking, but also necessary… as carbon dioxide is forming and putting pressure internally on the vessel. Carboys are also used by chemical companies, and no one wants to see any hazardous chemicals escape, if one of these carboys is accidentally dropped, right?

As Paul Harvey always said, “And now you know the rest of the story.”


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2 Responses to “Carboy… Did you ever wonder about its derivative?”

  1. Derivative Definition says:

    I think your definition of derivative is incorrect. You are interested what carboy is derived from, not what is derived from carboy.

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    noun: derivation; plural noun: derivations

    the obtaining or developing of something from a source or origin.
    “the derivation of scientific laws from observation”
    synonyms: deriving, induction, deduction, inference; More
    extraction, eliciting
    “the derivation of theories from empirical observation”
    the formation of a word from another word or from a root in the same or another language.
    synonyms: origin, etymology, root, etymon, provenance, source; More
    origination, beginning, foundation, basis, cause;
    development, evolution
    “the derivation of a word”
    origin; extraction.
    “music of primarily Turkish derivation”
    something derived; a derivative.
    “the derivation “sheepish” has six definitions”
    in generative grammar, the set of stages that link the abstract underlying structure of an expression to its surface form.

    In this case, how did a CAR BOY come into use? It may well be #2: Linguistics
    …the set of stages that link the abstract underlying structure of an expression to its surface form.

    You made me think about this one. Thanks.

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