Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Any of various pungent, aromatic plant substances, such as cinnamon or nutmeg, used to flavor foods or beverages.
  • noun These substances considered as a group.
  • noun Something that adds zest or interest.
  • noun A pungent aroma.
  • transitive verb To season with spices.
  • transitive verb To add zest or interest to.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Kind; sort; variety; species.
  • noun Kind of thing; anything of the kind or class before indicated; such sort: used demonstratively or indefinitely.
  • noun An exemplification of the kind of thing mentioned; specimen; sample; instance; piece.
  • noun A characteristic touch or taste; a modicum, smack, or flavoring, as of something piquant or exciting to the mind: as, a spice of roguery or of adventure.
  • noun A substance aromatic or pungent to the taste, or to both taste and smell; a drug; a savory or piquant condiment or eatable; a relish.
  • noun Now, specifically One of a class of aromatic vegetable condiments used for the seasoning of food, commonly in a pulverized state, as pepper, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves; collectively, such substances as a class: as, the trade in spices or spice.
  • noun A piquant odor or odorous substance, especially of vegetable origin; a spicy smell.
  • noun Figuratively, a piquant concomitant; an engaging accompaniment or incident; an attractive or enjoyable variation.
  • noun Synonyms Relish, savor, dash.
  • noun A small stick.
  • To prepare with a condiment or seasoning, especially of something aromatic or piquant; season or temper with a spice or spices: as, highly spiced food; to spice wine.
  • To vary or diversify, as speech, with words or matter of a different kind or tenor; interlard; make spicy, piquant, or entertaining; as, to spice one's talk with oaths, quips, or scandal; to spice a sermon with anecdotes.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun obsolete Species; kind.
  • noun A vegetable production of many kinds, fragrant or aromatic and pungent to the taste, as pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger, cloves, etc., which are used in cookery and to flavor sauces, pickles, etc.
  • noun Figuratively, that which enriches or alters the quality of a thing in a small degree, as spice alters the taste of food; that which gives zest or pungency; a slight flavoring; a relish; hence, a small quantity or admixture; a sprinkling.
  • transitive verb To season with spice, or as with spice; to mix aromatic or pungent substances with; to flavor; to season.
  • transitive verb To fill or impregnate with the odor of spices.
  • transitive verb obsolete To render nice or dainty; hence, to render scrupulous.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun nonce word Plural form of spouse.
  • noun uncountable Plant matter (usually dried) used to season or flavour food.
  • noun countable Any variety of spice.
  • noun figuratively, uncountable Appeal, interest; an attribute that makes something appealing, interesting, or engaging.
  • noun uncountable, Yorkshire Sweets, candy.
  • verb transitive To add spice or spices to.

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

  • noun any of a variety of pungent aromatic vegetable substances used for flavoring food
  • verb add herbs or spices to
  • noun aromatic substances of vegetable origin used as a preservative
  • verb make more interesting or flavorful
  • noun the property of being seasoned with spice and so highly flavored

Etymologies

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

[Middle English, from Old French espice, from Late Latin speciēs, wares, spices, from Latin, kind; see species.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Formed by analogy with mice as the plural of mouse by Robert A. Heinlein in Time Enough for Love.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French espice (modern épice), from Late Latin (plural) species ("spices, goods, wares"), from Latin (singular) spĕciēs ("kind, sort").

Examples

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  • "It is only by viewing spices in terms of this complex overlap of desires and distaste that the intensity of the appetite can be adequately accounted for--why, in other words, the discoverers we learned about in Aldgate Primary School found themselves on foreign shores demanding cinnamon and pepper with the cannons and galleons of Christendom at their backs."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), xvii.

    November 26, 2016

  • "Broadly, a spice is not an herb, understood to mean the aromatic, herbaceous, green parts of plants. Herbs are leafy, whereas spices are obtained from other parts of the plant: bark, root, flower bud, gums and resins, seed, fruit, or stigma. Herbs tend to grow in temperate climates, spices in the tropics. Historically, the implication was that a spice was far less readily obtainable than an herb--and far more expensive."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), xix-xx.

    November 26, 2016

  • "So it was that spices failed the moralists' checklist of acceptability on all counts. They were expensive, enfeebling, Eastern, effeminizing. And as if this were not enough, they lacked any evident nutritional value, their sole apparent function being to stimulate the appetite into new excesses of gluttony. Pliny drew these themes together while affecting an air of lofty contempt for the taste for pepper then sweeping the empire...."
    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 82.

    December 2, 2016

  • "In London at the start of the third millennium, the best places to shop for spice tend to be in the poorer, immigrant areas of the city, whereas seven hundred years ago it was the exact reverse, with the business addresses of London's grocers and spicers concentrated in the (then) well-off areas of the City. Spice could be bought from a number of retailers in the wealthy parishes of Saint Pancras, Saint Benet's Sherehog, Milk Street, and Saint Mary-le-Bow; but no spicer saw fit to set up shop in the poorer area of Farringdon. Spices went where the money was."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 136

    December 2, 2016