03 Nov Where does the word ‘RUM’ come from?
The origin of the word ‘Rum’ is unclear but there are a few theories….
We know that the Malays used the term ‘brum’ to describe the drink made from fermented sugar cane in the 14th century, but this name was not taken up immediately in the Caribbean in the 1620’s where ‘Kill-Devil’ was the common name for the Barbadian drink fermented from sugar.
Some etymologists have mentioned the Romani rum, meaning “strong” or “potent”. These words have been linked to ramboozle and rumfustian, both popular British drinks in the mid-17th century. However, neither of these was made with rum, but rather eggs, ale, wine, sugar, and various spices. A more common and popular explanation is that ‘rum’ comes from the Latin word for sugar ‘saccharum’.
Another claim is that the name is derived from the large drinking glasses or roemers used by Dutch seamen which were commonly known as rummers. There are records of production in Brazil in the 1620’s, which at the time was a Dutch colony.
But the most popular and probable origin is as a truncated version of ‘Rumbullion’ or ‘Rumbustion’, slang terms used for ‘tumult’ or ‘uproar’. This is a far more convincing explanation, and brings the image of fractious men fighting in entanglements at island tippling houses, which are early versions of the bars we know and love today.
Whatever the origins are ‘Rum’, ‘Rhum’, or ‘Ron’ has been used since the mid 17th century, and the first record of the word ‘rum’ was found in Barbados in 1688.
In the modern world, the name used for a rum is often based on the language spoken in its country origin….. The word ‘Rum’ is generally used for rums from English speaking countries – Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago – but also the generic word for this magical spirit. For rums from Spanish-speaking locales, the word ron is used – think Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, etc, etc! A ron añejo (“old rum”) indicates a rum that has been significantly aged and is often used for premium products; and Rhum is the term that typically distinguishes rum made from fresh sugar cane juice from rum made from molasses in French-speaking locales like Martinique.
So where does the word ‘RUM’ come from? We can’t be sure but we’re delighted we have a word to describe the wonderful, versatile and special spirit we know and love today.