What a small but smooth word this is! It flows beautifully off the tongue and onto the plate. Or perhaps indeed onto the palate!
This word has been with us for a very long time. We find two forms in Old English source languages for today’s English. In West Saxon it was cyse, while in Anglian it was cese, both meaning “cheese”. Little has changed in the intervening centuries, you might think, except the numbers of varieties!
The Old English words came from a West Germanic source; *kasjus, which itself came from the Latin word caseus, which of course also meant “cheese”. This word has spread around the continent, with Käse in German, kaas in Dutch, queso in Spanish, caws in Welsh and also càise in Scottish Gaelic, to mention just a few.
On theory suggests that it might derive from a Proto-Indo-European root *kwat, meaning “ferment, become sour”., although there seems to be some dispute about that. Whatever the truth of this theory, in my humble opinion this is where the ancient Greeks made a huge mistake. Forget nectar, forget ambrosia. The food of the gods is cheese.