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Lickerish liquorice

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 21 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1453

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Jeff Aronson, clinical pharmacologist, Oxford
  1. jeffrey.aronson{at}

Take two homophones: liquorice and lickerish. They are more or less contemporaneous, having been first recorded, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, in 1205 and 1275 respectively, the latter in the form “lickerous.” The two words, although etymologically distinct, have tantalising affinities.

The hypothetical Indo-European root DLKU (sweet), gives us words such as dulcet, dulcimer, the saccharide dulcose, the organ stop called dulciana, and Don Quixote’s Dulcinea del Toboso. It gave the Greeks γλϋκύς (glukus), sweet, which when added to ρίζα (rhiza) a root, gives us the sweetmeat liquorice, from the plants called Glycyrrhiza glabra …

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