One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A ball of perfumed soap containing a powder which creates a thick lather when dissolved in water.
2Caribbean. Any of several tropical American trees of the family Fabaceae (Leguminosae) with bark or leaves which are used as a soap substitute; specifically (in early use) Abarema macradenia (formerly Pithecolobium macradenium), and (in later use) any of several trees of the genus Lonchocarpus.
Early 18th century; earliest use found in Boccaccio's Il Decamerone. From Italian savonetta and its model French savonnette from savon soap + -ette, feminine diminutive suffix.
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