English is a living and growing language, with new words / phrases being added regularly and some from foreign languages.

The Britishers started trading with Mughal India from early 1600's before becoming the rulers in mid 1700's. Many words from Urdu and Hindustani find common usage in English today.

The word "Curry" to refer to the spicy food dish came into use also probably from India.

When did this word 'Curry' start being used in the language?

How and when did the phrase "Currying favour" and the like come into common usage?

  • 9
    “Curry favor” has a completely different etymology than the dish since the former is related to “curry brush”.
    – Laurel
    Aug 5, 2018 at 4:16

1 Answer 1


Curry meaning sauce is from Tamil, while curry favor is from Old French; the two expressions, despite the spelling, are unrelated:


kind of sauce or relish much used in Indian cookery, from the leaves of a southwest Asian plant related to the lemon, 1680s, from Tamil (Dravidian) kari "sauce, relish for rice," also "a bite, bit, morsel."

As "meat or vegetable stew flavored with curry powder," 1747 in British English.

To curry favor:

To curry favor "flatter, seek favor by officious show of courtesy or kindness" is an early 16c. folk-etymology alteration of curry favel (c. 1400) from Old French correier fauvel "to be false, hypocritical," literally "to curry the chestnut horse," chestnut horses in medieval French allegories being symbols of cunning and deceit. Compare German den falben (hengst) streichen "to flatter, cajole," literally "to stroke the dun-colored horse."


  • 3
    Yes "Curry" has eight entries in the OED, four as a noun, one an adjective and three verb meanings. Under sense 5 of the verb meaning (from French conraier - to put in order) we find expressions such as "curry favour".
    – WS2
    Aug 5, 2018 at 6:52
  • 1
    A slight aside; culinary note... it's odd that most curries & curry powders don't actually contain curry leaves. They're almost exclusively used only in Southern Indian or Sri Lankan dishes.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 5, 2018 at 14:15
  • I was told that the exact etymology of the dish is unknown, that there are only unproven stories. One story having an Englishman ask after the name of a specific dish, and the cook answering "Torkari" since it was a Turkish recipe, which the Englishman then misheard. So I'm not sure how certain the etymonline people are.
    – Mr Lister
    Aug 5, 2018 at 17:20
  • 2
    @MrLister - well, you can post an answer providing all relevant information you have. “I was told” is not the kind of standard reference usually accepted on ELU.
    – user 66974
    Aug 5, 2018 at 17:37
  • @user070221 Ehm, that's why I posted a comment rather than an answer.
    – Mr Lister
    Aug 5, 2018 at 19:02

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.