The word locavore (sometimes expressed as localvore) was formed by combining local with the suffix -vore, which comes from the Latin word vorare, meaning to devour. Vore is commonly used to form nouns—omnivore, carnivore, herbivore, insectivore and so on—that describe an animal's diet.
Who Thought of Locavore?
Jessica Prentice (chef, writer and co-founder of Three Stone Hearth, a community supported kitchen cooperative in Berkeley, California) coined the term locavore in 2005 in response to a call from Olivia Wu, a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, who was using Prentice as the focal point for an article about eating locally grown food. Wu was on deadline and needed a catchy way to describe members of the rapidly growing local food movement.
How Did Locavore Become Popular?
Prentice came up with locavore and the term was quickly embraced and adopted by, well, by locavores everywhere. Author Barbara Kingsolver's use of locavore in her 2007 book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle increased the popularity of the term even further and helped to ensure its place in the English and environmental lexicons. A few months later, the New Oxford English Dictionary chose locavore as its 2007 Word of the Year.
“The word locavore shows how food-lovers can enjoy what they eat while still appreciating the impact they have on the environment,” said Ben Zimmer, editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press, in announcing the choice. “It’s significant in that it brings together eating and ecology in a new way.”
How Was Locavore Derived?
Prentice explains how the term locavore came to be and her logic in choosing locavore over localvore in The Birth of Locavore, a blog post she wrote for the Oxford University Press in November 2007:
- "Flow: the word flows better without the 'lv' in the middle. It’s easier to say.
- Nuance: in my opinion, 'localvore' says too much. There is little mystery to it, nothing to discover. It says that this is all about eating locally, end of story. But the word 'local' is rooted in locus, meaning 'place,' which has a deeper resonance… This movement is about eating not only from your place, but with a sense of place—something we don’t have an English word for. There is a French word, terroir, which implies the sense of place that you get from eating a particular food or drinking a particular wine. Unfortunately, it looks a lot like 'terror,' something Americans are touchy about at the moment. I do know one wonderful local farm here in the Bay Area that has made an English play on the French word by using the term tairwa, but it hasn’t really caught on.
- Credibility: 'locavore' could almost be a 'real' word, combining roots derived from two Latin words: locus, 'place,' with vorare, 'to swallow.' I like the literal meaning of 'locavore,' then: 'one who swallows (or devours!) the place!'
- Levity: because of the Spanish word 'loca' embedded in 'locavore,' there is a little tongue-in-cheek, playful quality to it. I enjoy both the potential for teasing embedded in 'locavore' and the potential for serious discussion—which is crazier, people who try to eat locally, or our current destructive globalized food system?
- Operatic potential: read the word as if it were Italian, and it rhymes with 'that’s amore!'"
Prentice wrote that her father later thought of another reason to prefer locavore over the more literal localvore.
"The latter could be misread as “lo-cal vore,” Prentice wrote. "It would be really terrible to be misconstrued as promoting a weight-loss diet—especially for someone who loves rich food as much as I do."
In conclusion, Prentice wrote: "Once upon a time, all human beings were locavores, and everything we ate was a gift of the Earth. To have something to devour is a blessing—let’s not forget it."