Merriam-Webster Adds 'Ghost Pepper,' 'Umami,' 'Mofongo' and More Food Words to the Dictionary

In 2018, Merriam-Webster added 850 words and definitions to the dictionary, including the relatable “dumpster fire” and “embiggen”—with some food words in the mix too, like harissa, kombucha, poke, and aquafaba (chickpea water used in vegan dishes and cocktails, in case you were wondering). This year, the overarching haul of new words topped 640, and among them, the dictionary flagged 17 food-related terms for us. There’s the beloved Puerto Rican dish mofongo; a non-meat definition of steak (which can refer to cauliflower steaks, mushroom steaks, etc.); and double-dip, which is pretty self-explanatory.

In order to make the cut, a word must demonstrate that it’s an established member of the English language, according to Emily Brewster, an associate editor at Merriam-Webster. There are three criteria that need to be satisfied: frequent use, widespread use, and meaningful use. As for who decides? While you might imagine a formal committee, the staff of lexicographers (an author or editor of a dictionary, according to Merriam-Webster) is in charge. It may seem baffling that common terms such as chai latte and go-cup weren’t already included—they’re certainly regulars at coffee shops—but Brewster provided insight.

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“Food terms that have only recently qualified for entry are sometimes very familiar to foodies,” Brewster said in a statement. “While readers of Food & Wine may have been eating mofongo for years—our evidence of mofongo in print in English dates to 1959—but it’s really only in the past few years that the word has settled fully into the English language, appearing with frequency in published, edited text written for a general audience.”Here are some of the food and beverage words added to the dictionary in 2019:

  • bay-rum tree
  • Benedict
  • bhut jolokia
  • chai latte
  • cheesemonger
  • cow parsnip / giant cow parsnip
  • double-dip
  • dulce de leche
  • ghost pepper
  • go-cup
  • java
  • mofongo
  • steak (non-meat)
  • umami
  • pinot
  • Americano
  • Campari

Learn more about the 2019 additions on the Merriam-Webster site.

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