writing and blogging

Teeth, tombs, or waffle cones?

I don’t know how many e-mails I get in a day—my math skills aren’t that good—but I have noticed an increasing number that mention “honey cone.” At first, I thought this was a typo; after all, the letters m and n are neighbors on the qwerty keyboard. But on further thought, b and e are not. So what’s up?

The spelling must come from what people think they hear or what they think makes sense. It’s hard for me to believe a beekeeper wouldn’t have seen the word “comb” enough times to get it right, but apparently that’s not the case.

I can’t find any good explanation of the word’s origin. Some say comb derives from Old English camb or German kamm, meaning a toothed object. But is honeycomb really toothed? The derivation that makes more sense to me comes from catacombs—an “underground cemetery, especially one consisting of tunnels and rooms with recesses dug out for coffins and tombs.” Morbid, maybe, but I can visualize it.

Regardless of the derivation, the word is “comb.” So where does “cone” come from? My current thought is that people are associating the shape of wax cells with the waffled pattern on an ice cream cone.  Sure, one has six sides and one has four, but I can see a similarity. Or perhaps people think of a cone as something that carries food within, like an ice cream cone, whereas the word “comb” doesn’t seem to relate to food at all.

Any thoughts?


Frames dripping with honey.

Comb dripping with honey © M. Shanahan


  • I don’t mean to come off sounding mean, but it’s ignorance of beekeeping and the correct nomenclature associated with bees and keeping them. Ignorance does not mean stupid, but rather not knowing. After all, every things that fly and buzz is a bee! We know that’s not true!

  • I agree. I think it’s not knowing the terminology and possibly auditory confusion. When I was young (I won’t say how long ago that was) I thought the Beach Boys were singing “If everybody had a notion, across the USA” instead of “an ocean”. Duh–I mean, they were the boys!

  • My first thought was the Old English coomb or coombe, a deep hollow or round valley—lots of little deep round valleys to keep honey in.

    Far-fetched? Oh well. Skep is from Old Norse, skeppa, a basket. You probably knew that.


  • I always think of the Saturday Night Live “Cone Heads,” when I hear people say honey cone. I was just teasing my father for saying cone, and knew you had to have addressed this on your site. Thank you for running such an awesome, informative site. I refer people here all the time…

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