Par·​me·​san | \ ˈpär-mə-ˌzän How to pronounce Parmesan (audio) , -ˌzhän, -zən, -ˌzan How to pronounce Parmesan (audio) \

Definition of Parmesan

: a very hard dry sharply flavored cheese that is sold grated or in wedges sprinkled grated Parmesan over the spaghetti

First Known Use of Parmesan

1538, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for Parmesan

short for Parmesan cheese; Parmesan "of the city of Parma," borrowed from Middle French parmisan, probably borrowed from a western Upper Italian variant of Tuscan parmigiano, from Parma "Parma" + -igiano, adjective suffix of appurtenance, from Vulgar Latin *-ēs- (going back to Latin -ensis, adjective suffix of place) + Latin -iānus -ian entry 2

Note: The expected Tuscan (and standard Italian) outcome of -igiano would be -iciano; cf. standard Italian bacio "kiss" (from Latin bāsium), usually pronounced [ˈba šo], but Ligurian [ˈba žu], Trentino (northwest Italy) [ˈba žo] (see Gerhard Rohlfs, Grammatica storica della lingua italiana e dei suoi dialetti: Sintassi e formazione delle parole, Turin, 1969, p. 392). The form -igiano with a voiced consonant hence presumably reflects Upper Italian influence. For instances of the same suffix as borrowed into French see courtesan, partisan entry 1. The common American English pronunciation of Parmesan with \zh\ may show dialectal Italian influence.

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The first known use of Parmesan was in 1538

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Cite this Entry

“Parmesan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of Parmesan

: a hard Italian cheese

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