‘Umami’ and ‘Ghost Pepper’ Among Food Words Added to Dictionary

Every year, the logophiles over at Merriam-Webster add to their ever-growing list of English language words, including a slew of food terms and phrases. And every year, we find ourselves utterly shocked to learn that many of those words weren’t already in the dictionary!

This year, “umami”—regarded as one of the five tastes that register with humans along with salty, sweet, spicy and sour—tops the list of words we can’t believe hadn’t already received official status. Others like “ghost pepper,” “chai latte,” “java,” and “mofongo”—the hearty Puerto Rican dish of mashed plantains—were surprisingly not yet “words” until this year, according to the dictionary.

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The release of new dictionary word inductees is always a fun cultural exercise, albeit rife with controversy and debate. When describing the process for considering, and ultimately including a word, the folks at Merriam-Webster cite the following:

“The English language never sleeps, and neither does the dictionary. The work of revising a dictionary is constant, and it mirrors the culture’s need to make sense of the world with words. It all begins, in each case, with evidence of words in use. We watch as words move from specialized contexts to more general use and we make citations for each word in order to draft our definitions. In other words, we have the receipts (in a manner of speaking).”

“Swole,” “stan,” “buzzy,” and “EGOT” are all among the list of non-food words added this year, many of which are “adopted from slang and internet culture.” See a full list of new food words below and learn more about the complete 2019 additions here.

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

What are your favorite food words—official or not?

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