Merriam-Webster Adds 'Halloumi,' 'Matcha,' and More Food Words to the Dictionary

Somehow, 'tallboy' wasn't already in there.

Early on Tuesday morning, Merriam-Webster tweeted its Word of the Day, which included a screenshot of one of its own dictionary definitions. The word was labile, an adjective that means "readily or continually undergoing change." That made even more sense an hour later when the wordsmith also announced that it had added 533 new words to the dictionary, and had made some 4,000 other revisions to existing definitions, etymologies, and pronunciations.

In addition to "escape room," "dad joke," and "coulrophobia"—"an abnormal fear of clowns"—nine new food and beverage terms have also been added to its online pages. The words that have just been elevated to full-on dictionary status include:

  • halloumi – everyone's favorite Cypriot cheese
  • matcha – everyone's favorite finely ground green tea powder
  • concasse – a roughly chopped food
  • cidery – a place where cider is made
  • meadery – like a cidery, but for mead
  • chana – chickpeas or dishes made with the legumes
  • royal icing – the decorative icing that existed well before The Great British Baking Show
  • tallboy – a 16-ounce can of beer (that, frankly, should've been in the dictionary already)
  • quaffer – either a person who quaffs a beverage or a beverage that was made for quaffing

"We need to see lots of evidence of use for a new word to be added to the dictionary," Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's Editor at Large said in a statement. "Some of these words have been around for a while, but this batch also has terms that have come into the language very recently. Some terms are adopted into the language very quickly, and those terms need to be defined."

Although Sokolowski was talking about the first known use of some of the dictionary's other new additions, the same goes for some of these food terms: quaffer has been used to describe a person who heartily downs a beverage since 1520, while cidery wasn't in anyone's lexicon until 1991.

As always, the juiciest details –– at least for word nerds like me –– are found by scrolling past the definition to the etymology and origins. Concasse's history stretches back to the Latin word conquassāre, which means "to shake violently, break, shatter," which brings some serious violence to food prep. And matcha is a combination of the Japanese word for tea ("cha") with part of another Japanese word ("matsu") that means to "rub, daub, [or] paint."

Sitthipong Inthason / EyeEm/Getty Images

This is the second time this year that Merriam-Webster has made additions to its dictionary. The first 2019 revision delivered 850 new words and definitions, including food terms like chai latte, cheesemonger, ghost pepper, and double-dip. (We love Merriam-Webster, but how did double-dip stay out until April? That "George double-dips a chip" episode of "Seinfeld" has been on TV, like, every six hours since the late 1990s.)

Happy Etymology Christmas, everyone!

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