Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of numerous chiefly tropical vines of the genus Dioscorea, many of which have edible tuberous roots.
  • n. The starchy root of any of these plants, used in the tropics as food.
  • n. Chiefly Southern U.S. See sweet potato. See Regional Note at goober.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any climbing vine of the genus Dioscorea in the Eastern and Western hemispheres, usually cultivated
  • n. The edible, starchy, tuberous root of that plant, a tropical staple food.
  • n. A sweet potato; a tuber from the genus Ipomoea.
  • n. Potato.
  • n. home.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A large, esculent, farinaceous tuber of various climbing plants of the genus Dioscorea; also, the plants themselves. Mostly natives of warm climates. The plants have netted-veined, petioled leaves, and pods with three broad wings. The commonest species is Dioscorea sativa, but several others are cultivated.
  • n. Any one of several cultural varieties of the sweet potato.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A tuberous root of a plant of the genus Dioscorea, particularly if belonging to one of numerous species cultivated for their esculent roots; also, such a plant itself.
  • n. By transference, a variety of the sweet-potato.
  • n. Any plant of the order Dioscoreaceæ.
  • n. See Rajania.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. any of a number of tropical vines of the genus Dioscorea many having edible tuberous roots
  • n. sweet potato with deep orange flesh that remains moist when baked
  • n. edible tuberous root of various yam plants of the genus Dioscorea grown in the tropics world-wide for food
  • n. edible tuber of any of several yams

Etymologies

Portuguese inhame or obsolete Spanish igname, iñame, both from Portuguese and English Creole nyam, to eat, of West African origin; Wolof ñam, food, to eat, or Bambara ñambu, manioc.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Portuguese inhame and Spanish ñame, possibly from the Fula nyami ("to eat"). The term was coined in 1657. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • You no let cutty my Foot, so me no let cutty your Head; no be sadd, you have _bumby grande * yam yam_.

    A Voyage to Cacklogallinia With a Description of the Religion, Policy, Customs and Manners of That Country

  • The eater then blows up the steam from the hot yam, and afterwards pokes the whole into his mouth, and says, ‘I thank God for being permitted to eat the new yam’; he then begins to chew it heartily, with fish likewise.

    Chapter 50. Eating the God. § 1. The Sacrament of First-Fruits

  • I guess that the term yam, as misapplied by growers and marketers of sweetpotatoes in the southern states, may have had its origin in the similar shapes of the roots of sweetpotatoes and the tubers another basic botanical difference of yams, the latter having been familiar to slaves from Africa.

    No Uncertain Terms

  • The use of the word yam to refer to the orange one is at least as interesting an illustration of linguistic change as the retronyms you cite.

    No Uncertain Terms

  • While the yam is native to Africa and Asia, the sweet potato is indigenous to tropical America, and it is the true sweet potato, Ipomoea batatus, that has played a significant and versatile role in Mexican cooking.

    Mexican Sweet Potatoes, from Soup to Dessert: Los Camotes

  • Growth studies in Chinese yam (Dioscorea esculenta).

    Chapter 37

  • This healthful root vegetable is consistently misidentified as a yam, which is a much larger tuber grown in tropical climates, but with a similar sweetness and starchy texture.

    Gazette.com :

  • This healthy root vegetable is consistently misidentified as a yam, which is a much larger tuber grown in tropical climates, but with a similar sweetness and starchy texture.

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  • Sometimes marketed as a "yam" -- the rough-skinned tropical vegetable that is even sweeter -- the sweet potato cemented its standing as a Thanksgiving tradition early in the past century, some researchers say.

    The Sweet Potato Is

  • I did in fact have an exchange with him last week which included the word yam he would not explain what he meant and I am sure he did not know what my phrase meant either, mine was G K O YAM:) but he unfortunately didnt.

    On Thursday, the Legg report will be published along with...

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  • Canaanite word for "Sea"
    Also titled Judge Nahar ("Judge River")
    One of the gods of the Levantine pantheon, frequently referred to as "the serpent"
    (Wikipedia)

    January 21, 2008

  • May in reverse.

    November 3, 2007