I’ve just had some orzo, which for those who don’t know (I didn’t until this week) is a kind of tiny pasta shaped like grains of barley, which is what the word means in Italian.
I was curious about the origins of the word. It turns out it is from Latin hordeum and this from a root that means “bristly”, which an ear of barley famously is. The same root gives horrible, which originally meant “bristling”, urchin, and gorse.
Back to barley. This is from the same root as Latin farina “flour”, which is also the origin of farrago, a jumble of different grains all mixed together for animal feed. Also from barley we get “barn”, a grain store. It’s also found in place names such as Barton and Barley.