I’d noticed when reading historical work–either original or fiction–that recipe and receipt were often used in ways that we today would deem, well, flipped. But I’d never really paused to look it up.

I’m glad I just did, because I learned something!

We’ll start with recipe. Coming from the Latin word of the same spelling, which means “Take!” (a command), it came into English in 1580 as the word for “a medical prescription.” Literally, what the doctor was ordering you to take. (Who knew?!) This is (what I learned today) where the abbreviation Rx comes from. It took on a figurative sense (“recipe for disaster” etc) round about 1640. So when, you may be asking, did it come to mean “instructions for preparing food”? Not until 1743! I had no idea our primary meaning of the word is so relatively new!

So what did people call those instructions for food prep before they called it a recipe? Receipt. This word, borrowed from Old North French, has been in use in this way since the 1300s. It’s literally “a statement of ingredients in a potion or medicine.” As “a written acknowledgment of goods received,” it dates from 1600ish.

Any recipes you’ve been dying to try, or a favorite you’d like to share? I’m going to be hunting up the ingredients to make this chili con carne one of these days… And if you’re in the mood for some utterly scrumptious, light and fluffy and a-mazing homemade dinner rolls, this is the only recipe you’ll ever need…

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