Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

לאַטקעס is the Yiddish word used for the potato pancakes commonly and commemoratively eaten on Chanukah. Where does the word לאַטקעס come from originally? What exactly does it mean?

share|improve this question

put on hold as off-topic by mevaqesh, sabbahillel, Shmuel Brin, Danny Schoemann, Noach mi Frankfurt Feb 1 at 23:05

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions about the Hebrew language or about history or news of the Jewish people, Jewish individuals, or the State of Israel, except as related to Judaism, are off-topic. If this question does relate to Judaism, please edit it to indicate how." – mevaqesh, sabbahillel, Shmuel Brin, Danny Schoemann, Noach mi Frankfurt
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/6168 – msh210 Jan 4 '13 at 15:45
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Etymonline gives it as from Russian латка, "pastry", which may have come eventually from Ancient Greek ἐλαία, "olive" (or maybe it means modern Greek ελαία, "olive". I'm not sure).

share|improve this answer
    
Hence, we should fry them in olive oil! – Double AA Jan 4 '13 at 15:42
    
@DoubleAA I don't know the exact derivation from ἐλαία (or ελαία): possibly it came from having been fried in olive oil, but perhaps it came via some other route (e.g., maybe early pastries were olive-shaped). Compare judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/6168/…. – msh210 Jan 4 '13 at 15:45
    
Where does it say the Russian came from the Greek? It looks like an alternative etymology, either Russian or Greek? – Curiouser Jan 4 '13 at 15:56
    
@Curiouser, no, I think I read it correctly. (Also, Yiddish having derived from Greek is much less likely in general than Yiddish from Russian and Russian from Greek.) – msh210 Jan 4 '13 at 15:57
    
@msh210 In any case, the OED says Russian and leaves it there, no mention of Greek. So I think you are exaggerating when you say "comes eventually from". The website you linked to says "but", indicating that only Watkins traced it further to Greek but it is not necessarily accepted as such. – Curiouser Jan 4 '13 at 15:59

Etymonline seems to be essentially correct. Two other sources discussed in Balashon's article here describe the journey a little more explicitly:

Yiddish latke, from either Russian latka or Ukrainian oladka, both derived (I assume) from Old Russian оладья, olad'ya. This is then apparently derived from the Greek ελαδια, eladia, "olive-y things", ultimately from Greek elaia, "olive". The original intent, as I understand it, referred to cheese pancakes or fritters fried in olive oil. Matthew Goodman suggests (in the Forward article linked in the Balashon post) that as Jews migrated eastward into Ashkenazi Europe the preferred frying agent shifted from olive oil to schmaltz (chicken fat) and thus cheese pancakes became simple buckwheat or flour pancakes (what the Russian/Ukrainian words refer to now). As the potato was introduced to Europe in the 17th century, it was slowly adopted, becoming popular in the first half of the 19th century.

Derekh agav/An aside: eating cheese/dairy on Hanukkah is an old tradition to honour Judith, who in the midrashic tradition defeats Holofernes by feeding him salty cheese and slaking his thirst with wine (while in the Apocryphal version there is no cheese, just wine); see Noam Zion's comments here, with citations from the Rama and the Kol Bo re: cheese on Hanukkah.

share|improve this answer