What Does Cologne Mean?

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Cologne, or Eau de Cologne to give it its full name, is of course one of the most famous and beloved styles of perfume in the world. There are literally thousands of types of Eau de Cologne that you can wear. However, why do they all share the same name?

what does cologne mean

In this simple guide we’ll have a look at why exactly Cologne is called Cologne, as well as talking a little about the history of this fantastic fragrance!

The Origin Of Cologne

If you’ve ever heard of the famous German city of Cologne, then you might already have some idea as to where this famous perfume originates! Indeed, the perfume takes its name from the city of COlogne, where it was first produced in 1709.

Cologne was first made by Johann Maria Farina, an Italian maker of perfumes who had moved there at the age of 24.

Farina blended a unique aromatic selection of scents and essential oils to make this fantastic fragrance. He named it Eau de Cologne after the city where he created it.

In fact, the very same formula for Eau de Cologne as first developed by Farina is still made in Cologne to this day.

In fact, it has been produced at the same place, Johann Maria Farina gegenüber dem Jülichs-Platz (John Maria Farina opposite Jülich’s Square) since 1709.

Of course, Johann Maria Farina gegenüber dem Jülichs-Platz GmbH is no longer the only producer of a fragrance called Eau de Cologne. However, they keep the original recipe for this amazing scent a closely guarded secret.

Over the years, the term “Eau de Cologne” has shifted somewhat away from its original meaning, and is now more of a generic term for a style of perfumes that are similar in composition and preparation to the original Eau de Cologne.

Eau De Cologne Quackery

In its history, Eau de Cologne has of course been famous for use as a perfume. Since its first creation, it has been extremely popular and sought after.

The name Eau de Cologne has become practically synonymous with perfume across the world. Indeed, it might be surprising to learn that there was ever any other use for it!

However, it’s fair to say that medical science wasn’t as advanced in the late 17o0s, which actually led the manufacturers of Eau de Cologne to produce some unlikely medical claims for its perfumes.

For instance, inhaling the fragrance was purported to relieve headaches, and consumers were even encouraged to imbibe drops of the fragrance in order to cure various ailments.

The practice of publishing outlandish medical claims for their products was common amongst perfume manufacturers of the time.

However, Eau de Cologne was so popular amongst aristocracy and nobility that this quackery even reached the court of Napoleon, who quite literally consumed “Farina ducks”, which were sugar soaked lumps of the famous fragrance.

Hopefully, nobody nowadays will consider such a thing! Eau de Cologne might be a very pleasant fragrance, but of course it’s absolutely useless as a medical aid of any sort. It’s hard to imagine a time where people would actually consume the stuff!

The Spread Of Eau De Cologne

While it’s certainly true that the original Eau de Cologne as produced by Farina was a resounding success, it might well be confusing to people as to how the style of perfume today called Eau de Cologne relates to the original – and how did they end up sharing a name?

Well, it’s a very complex history, but it’s possible to tell a simplified version of it. When Farina became successful with his original Eau de Cologne, many other perfume makers began to imitate his original recipe.

One of the main reasons for this was simply how much money there was to be made by skilled perfumers!

A single bottle of Eau de Cologne was far more expensive than many people can imagine today – the average worker of the era would need months of their salary to afford a bottle! As such, Eau de Cologne was something only available to the very rich, which suited perfumers just fine.

Now, of course, as the original recipe remains a closely guarded secret even to this day, it wasn’t likely for anybody to get it exactly right. However, that didn’t stop people from marketing their perfume as Eau de Cologne.

In fact, it was so successful that perfume makers didn’t only steal the name of the perfume, but so many of them even started to operate under the Farina name despite no connection at all to the original creator or family.

As such, it’s perhaps not surprising that the name Eau de Cologne became somewhat genericized over the years! Nowadays, there are thousands of different perfumes available in the style called Eau de Cologne.

They’re not all close attempts at imitating the original recipe now so much as they are members of a style of perfume in its own right. However, every perfume calling itself an Eau de Cologne today owes something to the original Eau de Cologne as made by Farina.

Ingredients Of Eau De Cologne

As previously mentioned, the original recipe for Eau de Cologne as first produced by Farina is still in use today by the original company.

However, they keep this recipe under lock and key, and as such nobody but them can say for sure exactly which ingredients and essential oils go into Eau de Cologne in order to make it.

Of course, one of the main ingredients in Eau de Cologne is alcohol. Some of the essential oils in a good Eau de Cologne include bergamot, citron, neroli, and lemon, all of which are thought to be in the original recipe. The original ingredients also include spirit of wine, spirit of rosemary, and lemon balm water.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of what can go into an Eau de Cologne, and shouldn’t be thought of as even a definitive list of ingredients for the original recipe!


If you were ever curious about why Eau de Cologne has the name, and what the history of the perfume is, then hopefully this guide has helped you out!

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