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Trees, Groves, and Orchards

In our latest Le saviez-vous? video, we visit La Maison de l'Olive, a store in Nice specializing in—you guessed it—olives. Like most of the Mediterranean region, the south of France is filled with olive trees, or oliviers:

 

Toute la cuisine méditerranéenne se fait avec l'huile d'olive. C'est la civilisation de l'olivier.
All Mediterranean cuisine is made with olive oil. It's the olive tree civilization.
Cap. 27-28, Le saviez-vous? - La Maison de l'Olive à Nice - Part 1

 

You might be familiar with the word olivier as a proper noun, Olivier, the French equivalent of "Oliver." But its basic meaning is "olive tree." In fact, like olivier, the names of most fruit and nut trees end in -ier in French. So, for example, an apple tree is un pommier (from une pomme), a cherry tree is un cerisier (from une cerise), a pear tree is un poirier (from une poire), and so on: 

 

Je parle surtout du cacaoyer, du bananier
I am talking especially about the cacao tree, the banana tree
Cap. 8, Grand Lille TV - Visite des serres de Tourcoing

 

Ils connaissent le mot café, mais ils ne connaissent [sic: savent] pas ce que c'est que le caféier...
They know the word "coffee," but they don't know what the coffee tree is...
Cap. 12, Grand Lille TV - Visite des serres de Tourcoing

 

Of course, there are some exceptions. A few of these tree names end in -yer, not -ier, such as cacaoyer above and noyer (walnut tree, from une noix). And a few just end in -er, namely oranger (orange tree) and pêcher (peach tree). Like most -er words, these trees are always masculine, even if the fruit or nut that grows on them is feminine. So you have un pêcher (a peach tree) but une pêche (a peach); un cerisier (a cherry tree) but une cerise (a cherry).

 

Incidentally, when someone asks if you know how to faire le poirier, they're not wondering whether you can "make the pear tree," but whether you can do a headstand! The origin of this expression probably has to do with the rough resemblance between a headstand and a pear tree. But why not un pommier or un citronnier (a lemon tree)? Who knows! 

 

A group of fruit or nut trees is a grove (un bosquet) or an orchard (un verger). But the French word for "olive grove" is not un bosquet d'oliviers. It's une oliveraie:

 

En tout cas, en ce qui concerne les oliveraies qui sont sur les Alpes-Maritimes, elles ont été plantées par les Grecs.
In any case, with regard to the olive groves that are in the Alpes-Maritimes, they were planted by the Greeks. 
Cap. 32-34, Le saviez-vous? - La Maison de l'Olive à Nice - Part 1

 

Here we have another pattern: the words for fruit/nut groves or orchards generally end in -eraie or -aie. These words are always feminine. For instance:

 

une pomme - un pommier - une pommeraie
une cerise - un cerisier - une cerisaie 
une orange - un oranger - une orangeraie 
une châtaigne (a chestnut) - un châtaignier - une châtaigneraie 
une amande (an almond) - un amandier une amandaie 

 

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