From Cheesemonger to Java: All the New Food Words Merriam-Webster Added to the Dictionary

updated Apr 29, 2019
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Yesterday Merriam-Webster announced it would be adding 640 new words to the dictionary. Some of the new additions are peak mid-aughts slang, but almost all of them are finally mainstream enough to be granted approval from the ultimate gatekeepers of the English language. This year swole, stan, and snowflake (the derogatory term for a person who demands special treatment, that is) all made the cut, as did a few food-related terms that we’ve recently seen grow in popularity.

Many of the new words revolve around global cuisine: The Indian pepper (one of the hottest in the world) Bhut Jolokia is among the new words, as is dulce de leche and mofongo (a Puerto Rican dish made from fried plantains mixed with salt, garlic, and olive oil and served alongside a meat-based broth). Chai latte is another newcomer (just don’t call it a chai tea!): This caffeinated beverage is made with spiced black tea and steamed milk. Of course, none of these words are new to the people who grew up eating plantains, drinking chai, or topping all their meals with peppers, but for uninitiated Americans, this is basically a buffet of new language.

There’s some slang here, too, like go-cup (that convenient plastic or styrofoam cup that lets you take your beverage on the road) and double-dip (the snacking method that would get you totally banned from my aunt’s kitchen on Thanksgiving). And there’s one more that actually seems old-fashioned: java, a slang term for coffee I heard my parents use when I was a kid.

And then there are a couple of words that even the most informed foodies might not be familiar with: For instance, the cow parsnip. It’s a root vegetable related to a carrot, and if it’s being added to the dictionary, maybe that means it’s about to start popping up all over restaurant menus, too. Or what about the bay-rum tree? This West Indian plant is related to the allspice tree, and it’s the source of an oil used to flavor rum.

Personally, my favorite new addition to Merriam-Webster is cheesemonger, simply because we really should spend more time celebrating the fine folks who bring delicious cheese into our lives. Want to find your own new favorite word? You can read the (nearly) complete list here.