peet-sê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A southern Italian dish consisting of a thin piece of bread covered with tomato sauce and cheese, usually enhanced with other bits such as olives, sausage, and mushrooms.
Notes: Today's Good Word is still so warm from Italian that all its relatives are still purely Italian: a pizzaiolo is a pizza maker while a pizzeria is a pizza parlor. A small pizza with a very thin crust is a pizzetta. (Did you know that?)
In Play: Although pizzas have been available in Italian restaurants throughout North America since the turn of the century, they languished unnoticed until the 1950s. They were originally called "tomato pies" or "pizza pies" since, in the American experience, they most resembled a thin pie with tomatoes. Pizza is now one of the most popular foods around the world, one of the few that will be delivered to your house.
Word History: Pizza has a historical pedigree going back over a thousand years. The word is first recorded in a Latin text from the southern Italian town of Gaeta in 997 AD. That text claims that a certain tenant must give the bishop of Gaeta duodecim pizze "twelve pizzas", every Christmas day and another twelve every Easter Sunday. Did you know that pizza was originally a German(ic) word? It originated in Langobard, a Germanic language spoken in southern Italy way back when. The Langobard word was probably bizzo or pizzo "a bite", which comes from the same Proto-Germanic words as English bite and bit. The same word in Gothic, a northern Germanic language of roughly the same time related to Langobard, would have been pitta and probably was borrowed in northern Italy as pita, a bread similar to that of the pizza. (Today's tasty bite of English vocabulary was delivered by Sally Capotosto, to whom we are all very grateful.)