I was trying to figure out a little about an Italian children's book character called Cipollino. The character is an anthropomorphic onion. I had been aware of cipolla in Italian, as well as diminutive forms, as well as cebula, in Polish. I went down a rabbit hole and discovered that, contrary to my expectations Russian went for the more Germanic лук, a cognate with leek or German lauch. The rabbit hole got deeper, but Google translate stopped me in my tracks with: enter image description here

Does anybody have an idea what the verb they might be referring to is? My suspicion is that, in Russian, these words might say something like "smother it with onions", much like some of my friends like to say "bacon it" to mean that it would taste better with some bacon. However, I don't really picture "to onion (something)" legitimate, either as a transitive or intransitive verb. I would not expect this to be considered standard enough to come up on Google translate, though I fault the engine with much worse, perhaps somebody has some ready examples.

  • 1
    "приправлять" means to flavour or to season, so I suppose it means "to flavour with onion" Dec 16, 2017 at 8:28
  • There is no “to onion” in English, unless it is a new usage. Are you asking what “to onion” means in Russian?
    – user 66974
    Dec 16, 2017 at 8:29
  • I am asking whether the Google translate example I gave above reflects a reality in English. These two Russian phrases are translated as verbs, and as "onion". I have never seen or heard onion as a verb, but I am not all-knowing, so I thought I'd ask here.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 16, 2017 at 8:35
  • @Ben Mansley - yes, I had gotten that far, but usual practice in Google translate is to give an explanation to a phrase, rather than a one word translation (that doesn't work), so I was wondering if there is a usage I am not aware of.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 16, 2017 at 8:37
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    For what it's worth, OED lists the verb onion but adds that it is rare. Here are the two definitions listed: 1. trans. To season or flavour with onions. Cf. onioned adj. 2. 2. trans. To treat (the eyes) with raw onion, so as to produce tears. Also in extended use. Cf. onioned adj. 1.
    – ermanen
    Jan 13, 2018 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


приправлять луком means flavour with onions while натирать себе глаза луком means rub onions in your eyes

I have never used onion as a verb, but the first is implicit in the use of onioned as an adjective given by Oxford Dictionaries

Of food: cooked or served with onions, containing onions.

while George Bernard Shaw used the eye irritation sense in the preface to Three Plays for Puritans

But when your Shakespears and Thackerays huddle up the matter at the end by killing somebody and covering your eyes with the undertaker's handkerchief, duly onioned with some pathetic phrase, as The flight of angels sing thee to thy rest, or Adsum, or the like, I have no respect for them at all : such maudlin tricks may impose on tea-drunkards, not on me.

  • 1
    Thanks for the example. I find this "onioned" an easy interpretation which follows the meaning of приправлять луком, but it does very little to reconcile натирать себе глаза луком. Now, if there was an example of an actor asking to be onioned in preparation for a crying scene, we'd be all set - with examples that hardly make the usage standard.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 16, 2017 at 9:04
  • It is not true that if there is an -ed of something, it must have been a verb. There is also the -ed suffix that is applied to nouns to form adjectives, like snaggle-toothed or rose-breasted.
    – tchrist
    Jan 13, 2018 at 16:24
  • @tchrist: those examples might be more persuasive if breast and tooth were not also verbs
    – Henry
    Jan 14, 2018 at 2:42
  • OED: “The suffix is now added without restriction to any n. from which it is desired to form an adj. with the sense ‘possessing, provided with, characterized by’ (something); e.g. in toothed, booted, wooded, moneyed, cultured, diseased, jaundiced, etc., and in parasynthetic derivatives, as dark-eyed, seven-hilled, leather-aproned, etc. In bigoted, crabbed, dogged, the suffix has a vaguer meaning.”
    – tchrist
    Jan 14, 2018 at 2:45

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