Best Gluten Free Beers

The Etymology of Gluten: A Fascinating Look at the Origins of the Word

gluten free beer brands 2023

The Etymology of Gluten

If you’re someone who’s fascinated by the concept of gluten and is considering going gluten-free, you might be curious about the origins of the word itself. Where did the word gluten come from? How has the word evolved throughout history? Word-nerds, pull up a seat! In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the etymology of gluten and explore its interesting journey through time.

where did the word gluten come from

The Latin Roots of the Word Gluten

The word gluten has its origins in the Latin word “glutinum,” which means glue. Yummy. But this absolutely makes sense when you consider the sticky, elastic texture that gluten gives to dough when it’s mixed with water. If you grew up making glutenous cookies and breads like I did, this won’t surprise you at all.

The earliest recorded use of the word gluten was in the 16th century, when it was used to describe a sticky substance that was often used to bind things together.

Gluten in the 19th Century: The Critical Ingredient

It wasn’t until the 19th century that we began to use the term gluten to describe the protein that’s found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. This is the term as we know it and use it today. During this early time period, scientists began to study the unique properties of gluten and its critical role in the baking industry.

etymology of gluten and celiac disease

They discovered that the elasticity of gluten allowed dough to rise easily and consistently, making it an essential ingredient in many baked goods. This is where the story gets a little scary for those with autoimmune diseases triggered by gluten!

Gluten in the 20th Century: Celiac Awareness

The negative effects of gluten on certain individuals began to be recognized and studied in the 20th century. Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten enters the body, was first described in the 1950s by a Dutch pediatrician named Willem-Karel Dicke. Thank goodness for Dr. Dicke, huh? Since then, scientists have continued to study gluten and its impact on human health.

The Evolution of Gluten-Free Products

As awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity has grown, so too has the demand for gluten-free products. In recent years, the food and beverage industry has responded to this demand by creating a wide range of gluten-free options and alternatives. These products are made without wheat, rye, or barley, and are often made with alternative grains and flours like rice, corn, and almond flour.

celiac disease and intestinal damage

The presence of gluten free products on the market was certainly originally fueled by intolerance or complete aversion to the grain–but things didn’t really take off until mainstream shoppers added fuel to the fire by popularizing gluten free products for the purpose of lifestyle and diet reasons.

I often hear Celiacs complain about these lifestyle-based gluten free people–but personally, I am incredibly grateful for them. It is their demand (and their money flooding into the market) that has added fuel to the gluten free fire. The more consumers there are out there looking to buy affordable gluten free products that taste good, the more companies that are going to produce them.

Now, I realize not every company jumping into the gluten free arena is as ethical and careful as we (as Celiacs) need them to be, I find this economic trend extremely positive overall–especially considering we can always make our own products from scratch if we don’t trust processed/packaged products crafted by certain companies.

What I know for sure is that my Celiac grandmother had extremely limited access to high quality gluten free products. And what she used to be limited to buying often did not taste good at all. My gluten free world is so different from the one she grew up in, and it’s my opinion that we have a mainstream interest in gluten free lifestyles to thank for that. Just me over here…looking at the positive! But hey. I also realize the complications this creates in restaurants when servers and kitchens don’t take Celiac-level gluten free needs seriously. I have an entire article on that, which you can read here.

gluten free diet


The word gluten has a fascinating history that spans centuries. Its origins in the Latin word for glue speak to its unique texture and properties, while its evolution into a protein that’s essential to the baking industry is a testament to its versatility. As more and more people become aware of the negative effects of gluten on certain individuals, the demand for gluten-free products will likely continue to grow.

Whether you’re someone who is fascinated by the science of gluten or someone who is considering going gluten-free, there’s no denying that the origins of the word itself are an interesting topic to explore.


  1. What foods contain gluten? Foods that contain gluten include wheat, rye, barley, and any products made from these grains. This can include bread, pasta, cereal, and baked goods, among other things.
  2. What is celiac disease? Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is consumed. Symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fatigue. Treatment involves following a strict and careful gluten-free diet.
  3. Is a gluten-free diet healthy? A gluten-free diet can be healthy if it’s done correctly. Just like any diet or restriction, it’s important to make sure you’re still getting all of the nutrients you need. It’s best to work with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian if you’re considering going gluten-free. But if you’re a Celiac–don’t wait! Go gluten free right away, because the damage it is causing your small intestine is extremely dangerous.

P.S. Like what I do for the gluten free beer community? Consider buying me a beer for my efforts! ;)

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x