• sweetbread •
sweet-bred • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The thymus gland or (rarely) pancreas of a calf or lamb for food.
Notes: Sweetbread is one of those compounds, like ladyfinger, woolly bear, ladybird, whose meaning bears no resemblance to that of its constituents. This word is usually used in the plural: sweetbreads. It has no other lexical relatives.
In Play: I suppose this word is a euphemism, because sweetbreads are actually considered a delicacy: "Stella Dorough served a delicious main course of veal sweetbreads, wild mushrooms, pecans and red wine reduction for dinner." It is served only at restaurants featuring the 'hautest' cuisine: "I had the roast veal sweetbreads with collop of foie gras and morel jus, while my wife opted for the roulade of duck fois gras cooked in truffle stock with cherry brioche."
Word History: This compound is obviously composed of sweet + bread. Sweet is related to Dutch zoet, Danish sød and German süß. All these words originate in PIE swad- "sweet, pleasant", found also in Sanskrit svadus "sweet", Greek hedys "sweet", and Latin suavis "pleasant", which English borrowed as suave. Bread has cousins in all Germanic languages, Danish brød, Dutch brood, and German Brot. It originates in PIE bhreuh- "boil, burn", also the source of English brew, broth, and broil. (Tomasz Kowaltowski thought this member of the 'Odd Compounds' category would be an intriguing Good Word and we agreed with him.)
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