Armenian Language Corner

Where Did Madzoon Come From?

It is interesting to note that the word mazoon appears to mean “rain-making clouds” in Arabic, and an Armenian eye would be surprised to note that the name Mazoon belongs to a dairy company from Oman and that they sell yogurt with their name on it.

But that is where the connection between Arabic mazoon and the Armenian word մածուն (madzoon), our name for yogurt—a word of Turkish origin—ends. The root of madzoon is the Classical Armenian verb մածանիլ (madzanil), which means “to glue, to join, to adhere, to condense” and was derived from the Proto-Indo-European root * m(e)hĝ (“to knead, fashion, fit”). This root, incidentally, is the source for a series of well-known English words such as “make,” “macerate,” “amass,” “mass,” “mason,” “magma,” and others.

Authors like Grigor Magistros (eleventh century) and Hovhannes Erznkatsi (thirteenth century) had already given the correct explanation to the meaning of madzanil.

Incidentally, if you come across Greek masoni, Russian matzoni and matzun, Turkish dialectal forms mazun and mazın, and especially Georgian matsoni, rest assured that all these have been borrowed from Armenian.

The origins of madzoon are disputed: Central Asia, Mesopotamia, Armenia are among the candidates. Armenian immigrants to the United States started selling madzoon in the 1910s, and the most famous case was that of the couple Sarkis and Rose Colombosian, who started Colombo and Sons Creamery in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1929. They originally delivered madzoon under the Armenian name, but then they changed it to “yogurt” for commercial reasons, since the name was well-known beyond the Armenian realm. The Colombo brand was the creator of the “fruit on the bottom” and existed successfully for eight decades. After the company was sold to General Mills in 1993, the brand was discontinued in 2010.

No doubt that madzoon has crossed borders. You may go to and find out that “Madzoon (Armenian for yogurt) is… the finest Greek style yogurt available in the Philippines at the most affordable price. From Armenia with Love!”