asafetida

asafetida

[as-uh-fet-i-duh]
noun Chemistry.
a soft, brown, lumpy gum resin having a bitter, acrid taste and an obnoxious odor, obtained from the roots of several Near Eastern plants belonging to the genus Ferula, of the parsley family: formerly used in medicine as a carminative and antispasmodic.
Also, asafoetida, asfetida.
Also called devil's dung, food of the gods.


Origin:
1350–1400; Middle English < Medieval Latin asafoetida, equivalent to asa (< Persian āzā mastic, gum) + Latin foetida, feminine of foetidus fetid

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World English Dictionary
asafoetida or asafetida (ˌæsəˈfɛtɪdə)
 
n
a bitter resin with an unpleasant onion-like smell, obtained from the roots of some umbelliferous plants of the genus Ferula: formerly used as a carminative, antispasmodic, and expectorant
 
[C14: from Medieval Latin, from asa gum (compare Persian azā mastic) + Latin foetidus evil-smelling, fetid]
 
asafetida or asafetida
 
n
 
[C14: from Medieval Latin, from asa gum (compare Persian azā mastic) + Latin foetidus evil-smelling, fetid]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

asafetida
late 14c., from M.L. asa (Latinized from Pers. aza "mastic") + foetida, fem. of foetidus "stinking" (see fetid).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

asafetida

gum resin prized as a condiment in India and Iran, where it is used to flavour curries, meatballs, and pickles. It has been used in Europe and the United States in perfumes and for flavouring. Acrid in taste, it emits a strong onionlike odour because of its organic sulfur compounds. It is obtained chiefly from the plant Ferula foetida of the family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae). The whole plant is used as a fresh vegetable, the inner portion of the full-grown stem being regarded as a delicacy. The plant may grow as high as 2 m (7 feet). After four years, when it is ready to yield asafetida, the stems are cut down close to the root, and a milky juice flows out that quickly sets into a solid resinous mass. A freshly exposed surface of asafetida has a translucent, pearly white appearance, but it soon darkens in the air, becoming first pink and finally reddish brown.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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