Word of the Day / Klementina: The Fruit Named for a French Missionary in Algeria

Clementines were named for Father Clement Rodier, who tended an orphanage's citrus trees and accidentally created the juicy little fruits.

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The Hebrew word for the citrus fruit clementine is klementina (kle-men-ti-NA). As you probably guessed, the word was simply taken from the English, when the fruit was first brought over in the 1920s. But where does the word clementine come from?

Well, it’s an eponymous name, that is a word named for a person. The fruit first appeared at the end of the 19th century in the garden of an orphanage in Algeria. Father Clement Rodier, a French missionary in Algeria, who tended the orphanage's citruses discovered the fruit, which was created through accidental hybridization of a mandarin and an orange.

The orphans loved the new fruit and named it after Father Clement, and thus the clementine got its name.

Father Clement was born with the name Vital, but he changed it when he became a member of the Brothers of the Annunciation. Had he not changed his name he the fruit could have been called “vitalines.” But he did.

The name Clement is derived from the Latin word for mercy, clementia, which is also the source of the word clemency. So next time you eat a clementine or better yet a klementina, think of good merciful Father Clement, who dutifully cared for those Algerian orphans and their citrus trees.

This fruit could have been caled a 'vitaline.'Credit: Dreamstime

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