• delicatessen •
de-lê-kê-tes-in • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Precooked delicacies, foods ready for serving: cold cuts, cheeses, various pickled items. Usually the foods are unusual, if not foreign. 2. A shop where delicatessen is sold.
Notes: Although this word started out as a German plural noun, it has become an English singular noun; the plural is delicatessens.There once was a word, still usable, I presume, delicatesse, an alternative for delicacy, but it has its own plural, delicatesses, as though unrelated to delicatessen.
In Play: The products in a delicatessen are usually considered fancy: "I have to stop at the delicatessen and pick up a few things. Merril's boss is coming for lunch and I don't have time to prepare a meal." The delicatessen is an assuring backup for those times when things don't go well in the kitchen: "Sheila burned the roast, but don't worry, there's a delicatessen in her neighborhood."
Word History: Today's Good Word is the German plural of French délicatesse "delicacy". The French inherited this word from Latin delicatus "pleasing", the source of the English word delicate. This word is a derivation of delicia "pleasure", the origin of English delicious. (Everyone seems to think that luscious is a corruption of delicious.) We presume the origin of all these words was a Late Latin verb comprising de- (here, an intensifier) + laciere "to entice". We are sure that the stem of this verb is related to laqueus "noose, snare", which ended up in English as lace and Spanish as lazo, which English borrowed as lasso. (Today's gratitude is owed Margie Sved, who has sent us a veritable delicatessen of Good Words.)
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