The etymology of the word “barbecue” shows that it appears to come from the word “barbacoa” (a long pit, with a framework of sticks) that was used in the 1500s and 1600s.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
[ad. Sp. barbacoa, a. Haitian barbacòa (E. B. Tylor) ‘a framework of sticks set upon posts’; evidently the same as the babracot (? a French spelling) of the Indians of Guyana, mentioned by Im Thurn. (The alleged Fr. barbe à queue ‘beard to tail,’ is an absurd conjecture suggested merely by the sound of the word.)]
1. A rude wooden framework, used in America for sleeping on, and for supporting above a fire meat that is to be smoked or dried.
1697 W. DAMPIER Voy. (1699) I. 20 And lay there all night, upon our Borbecu’s, or frames of Sticks, raised about 3 foot from the Ground. Ibid. I. 86 His Couch or Barbecu of Sticks.
2. An iron frame for broiling very large joints.
1736 BAILEY Househ. Dict. 347 When the belly side is..steady upon the gridiron or barbecue, pour into the belly of the hog, etc.
3. A hog, ox, or other animal broiled or roasted whole; see also quot. 1861, and BARBECUE v. 2.
1764 FOOTE Patron I. i. (1774) 6, I am invited to dinner on a barbicu.
4. a. A large social entertainment, usually in the open air, at which animals are roasted whole, and other provisions liberally supplied. Also attrib. orig. U.S.
1733 B. LYNDE Diary (1880) 138 Fair and hot; Browne, barbacue; hack overset. 1809 W. IRVING Knickerb. IV. ix. (1849) 240 Engaged in a great ‘barbecue,’ a kind of festivity or carouse much practised in Merryland. 1815 Salem (Mass.) Gaz. 30 June 3/2 An elegant Barbacue Dinner.
b. A structure for cooking food over an open fire of wood or charcoal, usu. out of doors, and freq. as part of a party or other social entertainment.
1931 Sunset June 10 (heading) How to build a barbecue.
1. To dry or cure (flesh, etc.) by exposure upon a barbecue; see the n. (senses 1 and 5).
1661 HICKERINGILL Jamaica 76 Some are slain, And their flesh forthwith Barbacu’d and eat.
2. To broil or roast (an animal) whole; e.g. to split a hog to the backbone, fill the belly with wine and stuffing, and cook it on a huge gridiron, basting with wine. Sometimes, to cook (a joint) with the same accessories. See also BARBECUE n. 3.
1690 A. BEHN Widow R. II. iv. 356 Let’s barbicu this fat rogue.
Most etymologists believe that the word barbeque ultimately derives from the language of the Taíno people of the Caribbean “barabicu”, which translates as “sacred fire pit”. In one form, barabicoa or barbicoa indicates a wooden grill or a mesh of sticks; in another, barabicu, it is a sacred fire pit.
Traditional barbicoa implies digging a hole in the ground putting some meat (goat is the best, usually the whole animal) on it with a pot underneath (to catch the concentrated juices, it makes a hearty broth), cover all with maguey leaves then cover with coal and set on fire. A few hours later it is ready.
There is ample evidence that the word and technique migrated out of the Caribbean and into and through other cultures and languages (with the word itself moving from Caribbean dialects into Spanish, then French, then English in the Americas). This would mean that the word “slowly evolved from barbacoa to barbecue and barbeque and bar-b-que and bar-b-q and bbq.”
The Conquest of the River Plate
The Commentaries of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca
From the Original Spanish Edition, 1555.
translated by Luis L. Dominguez
London: Hakluyt Society
Every eighth day they came laden with venison and wild boar, roasted on barbacoas.(1) These barbacoas
1. Barbacoa, i.e., parrillas.
are like gridirons, standing two palms high above the ground, and made of light sticks. The flesh is cut into steaks and then laid upon them and roasted. They also brought much fish and plenty of other provisions such as grease, linen mantles woven of a kind of teasel,(1) dyed in bright colours; and skins of the tiger and tapir, deer and other animals. When they came, the markets for the sale of all these commodities lasted two days. The natives of the other side of the river bartered with them; it was a very great market, and they (the Guaycurus) behaved peacefully towards the Guaranis. These gave them, in exchange for their commodities, maize, manioc, and mandubis; these last are like hazel nuts of chufas, and grow near the groun(2); they also supplied them with bows and arrows.
1. There are several classes of teasel (cardas) in Paraguai. The fibres of one of them (the caraguata) are used instead of hemp and thread.
The Voyages of Pedro Fernandez de Quiros
1595 to 1606
Translated and edited by Sir Clements Markham
in two volumes
Hakluyt Society, 1904
Kraus Reprint Limited,
In each village there is a long house, used as an oracle, with human figures in half relief, badly carved, and another long house, which appeared to be for the community. In the centre of them there were barbacoas of cane.
Buccaneers of America
Lastly, they scraped off the hair, and roasted or broiled it upon the fire. And being thus cooked they cut it into small morsels, and eat it, helping it down with frequent gulps of water, which by good fortune they had near at hand. They continued their march the fifth day, and about noon came to a place called Barbacoa. Here likewise they found traces of another ambuscade, but the place totally as unprovided as the two preceeding were.
New York Public Library catalog
Adriaan van Berkel’s Travels in South America between the Berbice and Essequibo rivers and in Surinam, 1670-1689
translated and edited by Walter Edmund Roth, 1925.
Imprint: Georgetown, British Guiana, The “Daily chronicle,” ltd., 1941 [i. e. 1942]
Series: The “Daily chronicle’s” Guiana edition of reprints and original works dealing with all phases of life in British Guiana. Ed. by Vincent Roth. [No. 2]
Note: Series in part at head of t.-p.
On cover: 2d impression, 1942.
“Appeared serially in the ‘Daily chronicle’ newspaper during 1926-27.”—Foreword.
Be it a hare, rabbit, hog, deer, etc., the hair is burnt off, the guts washed and the meat laid on a berbekot. This is an Indian grid of little wooden sticks about two feet high. On this they place their food, flesh, or fish, without salting it; and being half done roasted, they crumble it into the pepper-pot to eat at once or to keep for a more convenient time, because the pepper-pot is the only recourse.
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Sunday, December 31, 2006 • Permalink