I came across a word in an chemistry lecture which appears in plenty of places but none explaining where the word came from. The word in question is 'galligu'

From wiktionary,

1. The insoluble waste products of the Leblanc process.

It seems as if the word appeared out of nowhere and nobody questioned it, which is somewhat strange (though if I try hard enough I'll probably find it's not unheard of) for a science-related term. I have a hunch it may be somehow related to French, but nary a source to be found. Any help?

Example usage - http://www.nce.co.uk/the-perils-of-galligu/1228052.article


Apparently the people of Lancashire created the moniker galligu for the stinky stuff sometime before 1836:

Even after Gossage had developed in 1836 his towers for the condensation of byproduct hydrochloric acid, whose fumes were poisoning the countryside in the neighborhood of every alkali plant...Moreover, the process continued to waste valuable sulphur, to say nothing of calcium and large amounts of unchanged coal, in the form of a noisome mud that the inhabitants of Lancashire expressively baptized 'galligu', which added to the injury of loss the insult of costly disposal.

THE CAMBRIDGE ECONOMIC HISTORY OF EUROPE (published as early as 1941) emphasis mine

It seems to be an onomatopoeic:

In Widnes the evil-smelling mud was known as "galligu" an onomatopoeic term to indicate its slushy consistency and general nauseous nature.

Smokeless Air - Issues 131-134 - Page 144

Possible influences on the name:


2.2 Used to refer to something bitter or cruel:


1.0 A sticky or slimy substance.

  • 1
    I would be wary of attributing "likely sources" by apparent similarity alone. – augurar May 14 '15 at 6:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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