…of different types can be found growing wild the world over. However the large-bulbed varieties that we find so enjoyable today are thought to have originated in Central Asia somewhere. Though no one knows what the wild ancestors that produced the modern onion looked like, one thing is for certain: the onion has been part of the human diet for thousands, probably tens of thousands of years. The ancient civilization of Ur spoke of them, as did the Egyptians. The onion seems to have been so popular in Egypt, in fact, that the exiled Israelites recorded how terribly they missed Egyptian onions in the Bible. Must have been some darn good onions.
One thing about onion-eating in the ancient world is that it seems to have been restricted to the lower classes. Prohibitions on eating onions among royalty and the priestly classes were observed not only in Egypt, but in ancient India among the Brahmins and Jains. This is presumably because the hoity-toity among them apparently cared what their breath smelled like. What, they had no citron handy?
Concerning the word “onion”, it apparently comes down to us from the Romans, who enjoyed a variety of cultivars. One of those, which they referred as the “pearl” (unio), is thought by many linguists to be the basis of the French word oignon, which is where the English “onion” comes from. Of course there are competing theories, because let’s face it, that’s what linguists are like.