Merriam-Webster Adds 'Pumpkin Spice,' 'Oat Milk,' and 'Plant-based' to Dictionary

Surprisingly, the definition for "pumpkin spice" doesn't even mention lattes.

Pumpkin spice latte
Photo: Melanie Maya / Getty Images

It's that time of year again. No, I'm not talking about pumpkin spice season (even though it is pumpkin spice season). Merriam-Webster tends to add new words to the dictionary every fall — and they're at it again today, introducing 370 words to their tome in total. And, oh yeah, "pumpkin spice" is actually one of them.

Of the hundreds of new words (and definitions) that have been added, Merriam-Webster states, "Some of these new terms, like shrinkflation and metaverse, have recently been in the news; others, like yeet and janky, are more lighthearted." And at least nine of them are food-related.

For food publications like ours, the dictionary brand was nice enough to sift through all the new words and pull out the culinary terms. Here's the list in alphabetical order:

"Some of these words will amuse or inspire, others may provoke debate. Our job is to capture the language as it is used," Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's editor at large, stated. "Words offer a window into our ever-changing language and culture, and are only added to the dictionary when there is clear and sustained evidence of use."

Alright, so what is "pumpkin spice," really — aside from the world's most overused seasonal food trend? Merriam-Webster defines it as "a mixture of usually cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and often allspice that is commonly used in pumpkin pie." Not a mention of lattes anywhere to be found! Seems like an omission.

Speaking of spices, "ras el hanout" is defined as "a mixture of ground spices that is used in northern African cooking and includes coriander, ginger, turmeric, peppercorns, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne pepper, and other spices."

And that's just one of a number of international additions. "Omakase" is defined as "a series of small servings or courses (as of sushi) offered at a fixed price and whose selection is left to the chef's discretion." "Birria" is "a Mexican dish of stewed meat seasoned especially with chili peppers." A "banh mi" is "a usually spicy sandwich in Vietnamese cuisine consisting of a split baguette filled typically with meat (such as pork or chicken) and pickled vegetables (such as carrot and daikon) and garnished with cilantro and often cucumbers." And "mojo" is "a sauce, marinade, or seasoning that is usually composed primarily of olive oil, garlic, citrus juice, and spices (such as black pepper and cumin)."

The remaining three words have all seen heavy use in recent years. "Sessionable" — when speaking about alcoholic beverages — now officially means "having a light body and a lower-than-average percentage of alcohol." And "plant-based" gets two definitions: "made or derived from plants" and "consisting primarily or entirely of food (such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, oils, and beans) derived from plants."

Finally, there's "oat milk," defined as "a liquid made from ground oats and water that is usually fortified (as with calcium and vitamins) and used as a milk substitute." But you probably didn't need Merriam-Webster to tell you that.

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