In Europe, it all started with Marco Polo: the explorer “discovered” ice cream during one of his adventures in the Far East and came back to Italy with this brilliant invention.
France had to wait until the 16th century when Italian Catherine de Medici married the French king Henri II and brought this delight to the French court.
When it was first introduced, ice cream, “glace” in French (from the latin “gelus” and “glacies”), was nothing else than flavored iced water, but the French became very keen on that refreshing treat and other types of ice cream were elaborated (with yogurt and cream).
By the end of the 17th century, the oldest café in Paris was offering more than 80 flavors to the customers. The word “glace” became widely used to designate all sorts of “frozen edibles” (“glace à l’eau”, “glace au lait” etc.) and to this day “glace” is still the generic word to describe “ice cream” in European French.
The history of “ice cream” is totally different in Canada as it is linked to the development of refrigeration and pasteurization processes and to the boom of the American ice cream industry at the end of the 19th century.
French Canadians discovered ice cream through Americans and translated “ice cream” literally as “crème glacée”.
Nowadays the differences still exist because the Europeans developed their terminology around “glace” whereas the Canadians did around “crème glacée”. In particular, this is why we can now find “yogourt glacé” in Canada and “glace au yaourt” in Europe.