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asafetida

[as-uh-fet-i-duh] /ˌæs əˈfɛt ɪ də/
noun, Chemistry
1.
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
1350-1400; Middle English < Medieval Latin asafoetida, equivalent to asa (< Persian āzā mastic, gum) + Latin foetida, feminine of foetidus fetid
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for asafetida

asafoetida

/ˌæsəˈfɛtɪdə/
noun
1.
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
Word Origin
C14: from Medieval Latin, from asa gum (compare Persian azā mastic) + Latin foetidus evil-smelling, fetid
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for asafetida
n.

late 14c., from Medieval Latin asa (Latinized from Persian aza "mastic") + foetida, fem. of foetidus "stinking" (see fetid).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for 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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