What is the etymology of bouillon cubes? What other word can I use?

3 Answers 3


The Wiktionary page for bouillon describes the etymology well. The immediate origin of the word is quite clearly French, and is cognate with boil in English.

First attested 1656, from French bouillir (“to boil”), from Old French boillir, from Latin bullīre, present active infinitive of bulliō (“I bubble, boil”), from bulla (“bubble”).

A bouillon cube is simply a bit of dehydrated bullion (broth) shaped into a cube, so it can be easily added to a liquid to quickly season a broth.

(Why do I feel I'm on the Food and Cooking StackExchange site..?)

  • The answer doesn't explain why a word that means I boil is then used to mean broth.
    – apaderno
    Aug 26, 2011 at 11:13
  • @kiamlaluno: It's pretty obvious... one boils a liquid/vegetable/meat mixture in the process of making a broth.
    – Noldorin
    Aug 26, 2011 at 16:56
  • It seems like there is a missing step. For example, in Italian bollito refers to boiled meat, but bouillon cube is translated in dado per brodo (literally, "cube for broth"). Even if bouillon would be the French word for boiled, understanding why bouillon cube is used is not immediate.
    – apaderno
    Aug 26, 2011 at 17:11
  • @kiamlaluno: I'm not sure where you feel there's a missing step. Etymology (or linguistics) is no exact science, but I see the progression well enough. (Perhaps the strangeness stems from English not being native to you?)
    – Noldorin
    Aug 26, 2011 at 21:13
  • The missing part is that bouillon literally means "liquid in which something has boiled."
    – apaderno
    Aug 26, 2011 at 23:19

I've never heard another word to describe a bouillon cube, but there are at least three of words for the product of a bouillon cube. Stock, Broth, Soup.

  • 2
    As the wikipedia entry points out, bouillon cubes are commonly known in the UK and some commonwealth countries as stock cubes.
    – PLL
    Jan 5, 2011 at 0:43
  • @PLL: Yes, definitely - I didn't know what a bouillon cube was (though I probably would have guessed correctly) - they're only known as "stock cubes" in the UK.
    – psmears
    Feb 3, 2011 at 13:52

If you said "broth cube", people would look at you funny, but they'd probably know what you meant.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.