We’ll do something relatively normal today. No myths, just a normal plant with a simple mnemonic. It’s a plant on f101v.


Liquorice seems like a strong match for this plant. It is one of the only plants in the root-and-leaf section with the required stick-like roots. The leaves also match, even though only one branch is depicted. It is not uncommon in this section for a plant to be reduced to one leaf or twig plus the roots, for quick and easy recognition. One can clearly see the pairs of leaves with one on top of the twig. Glycyrrhiza glabra, native to Europe and India, is the most likely option, although G. uralensis is also possible.


Label reading: gorara. The first glyph most likely represents a sound like the English /g/. In this case, it is probably an interpretation of a glottal stop, which is transcribed as a -sign.

Cognates: Cognates are found in Semitic languages, and other languages that lent their word for liquorice from Arabic: Irqu al-sus, ‘araq-sus (liquorice-root). The closest match I found was in a regional variety of modern Spanish, which, like the Voynich label, duplicated the /r/ sound: ororuz. The difference is that Spanish dropped the initial glottal stop, while the Voynich gorara appears to reinforce it, possibly influenced by Greek glykyrrhiza.

In summary, it’s hard to say which exact language is meant here, since this word was lent by many languages and dialects in many different forms. If we take the Arab ‘araq as a base, we see that the initial glottal stop is maintained or even reinforced, and the first /r/ is duplicated in the second consonant, something that happens a lot in language change.

Mnemonic: The roots are arranged in an unnatural way, which signals the presence of a mnemonic device. Their shape brings to mind  the claws of crabs, an image which is reinforced by the rugged line on top of the right root. The mnemonic thus exploits the similar beginning between the Semitic words for “liquorice” and Ancient Greek karkínos crab”.