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[yam] /yæm/
the starchy, tuberous root of any of various climbing vines of the genus Dioscorea, cultivated for food in warm regions.
any of these plants.
Scot. potato (def 1).
Jamaican English
1580-90; compare Gullah nyam, Jamaican English nyaams, Sranan jamsi < sources in one or more West African languages (compare Wolof nyam(nyam), Fulani nyami to eat, Twi εnãm flesh, ànyinam, ayam’kàw-dé kinds of yam; earlier E forms < Portuguese inhame or Spanish (i)ñame
Can be confused Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for yams
  • There were yams, candied or simply baked and buttered.
  • To try yams with cranberry chutney, click here for the recipe.
  • Others came by the great river bringing yams and fish in their canoes.
  • Help yourself to yams candied in their own rich blood.
  • They grated taros and yams and soaked them in coconut milk.
  • yams to slow the onslaught of hot flashes during menopause.
  • Plantains, boiled yams, bean cakes and rice are a few of the accompanying sides you can order.
  • Other ingredients include potatoes, yams, rice and plantains.
  • The celebrations include presenting new yams to the chief, along with public feasts.
  • Remove any dark spots or damaged areas from the yams and wash them thoroughly under cool water.
British Dictionary definitions for yams


any of various twining plants of the genus Dioscorea, of tropical and subtropical regions, cultivated for their edible tubers: family Dioscoreaceae
the starchy tuber of any of these plants, which is eaten as a vegetable
(Southern US) any of certain large varieties of sweet potato
a former Scot name for the (common) potato
Word Origin
C17: from Portuguese inhame, ultimately of West African origin; compare Senegal nyami to eat
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for yams



1580s, from Portuguese inhame or Spanish igname, from a West African language (cf. Fulani nyami "to eat;" Twi anyinam "species of yam"); the word in American and Jamaican English probably is directly from West African sources.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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