• dessert •
di-zêrt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The final sweet course of a meal, (UK colloquial) afters, pudding. 2. (British) The final course of a meal served after afters (= dessert in Britain), usually fruit, nuts, or sweetmeats.
Notes: Here is a common word, interesting for its spelling, dialectal variation, and history. Look out for the double Ss in this word. It is pronounced the same as desert in 'just deserts', but not spelled the same. Dessert is a lexical orphan without derivational family.
In Play: All of us know already how to use today's Good Word: "Chocolate chipotle ice cream is my favorite dessert." Dessert is often used figuratively: "Amanda Lynn Player's concert was the dessert for a perfect evening."
Word History: Here is another borrowing from French. It comes from Middle French dessert "last course" (current meaning "dessert"), a noun based on desservir "clear the table", literally the "un-serve", from des- "reverse, not" + servir "to serve". Originally, the word referred to the course served after the table was cleared. French inherited des- from Latin dis- "apart, asunder", which comes from Proto-Indo-European dwis- "apart, asunder". This word may have been related to duo and two. French servir comes from Latin servire "to serve, work as a slave" from servus "slave". English borrowed servir, too, for its serve. Latin inherited its word from Proto-Italic serwo- "shepherd", inherited from PIE seruo- "guardian", the source also of Avestan haraiti "heeds, protects". However, the trail ends here. (Tony Bowden of London recommended today's dessert of a Good Word.)
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