bir·​ria ˈbir-ē-ˌä How to pronounce birria (audio)
plural birrias
: a Mexican dish of stewed meat seasoned especially with chili peppers
Customers sometimes drive hours for its … lamb birria.Janelle Brown
Fresh brisket, the base of this birria, takes especially well to moist, slow, and untended oven cooking with mild chilies, seeds and spices, vinegar, and onions.Sunset
The birria here is gentler, yet gamier than the bold beef birrias of Tijuana and Northern Mexico. The meat itself is shredded rather finely and the subtle broth benefited from a couple squeezes of lime and handful of raw onions.Andi Berlin

Examples of birria in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Menu highlights include Neapolitan-style pizza, an Italian birria sandwich and Italian pork rubbed with wild fennel pollen, cooked for six hours and served with potatoes. Endia Fontanez, The Arizona Republic, 8 Jan. 2024 Executive chef Ken Arneson said his favorite dish is the birria braised oxtails, house pickled vegetables and grilled Noble bread. Endia Fontanez, The Arizona Republic, 22 Jan. 2024 Under a white tent, another chef served a hearty birria, a stew made with the meat of Boer goats, like the ones eating hay just a few yards away. Carley Thornell, Travel + Leisure, 19 Jan. 2024 Rather than saying you like bourbon and tacos, mention your Kentucky upbringing or your quest for the neighborhood’s best birria. Tatum Hunter, Washington Post, 27 Nov. 2023 The queso birria is filled with marinated beef and plenty of melty Monterey jack cheese and served with a side of consommé for dipping. Kat Thompson, Los Angeles Times, 25 Oct. 2023 Salón París is a great traditional cantina, while La Polar makes superb birria. Michael Snyder, Travel + Leisure, 27 Nov. 2023 In a city where everyone already has their favorite taco spot, and the trend for fusion tacos long ago ended in favor of birria anything? Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, 29 Sep. 2023 Finally, the birria at Ed Fernandez and the sandwiches at Beyer Deli cannot be beaten. Lisa Deaderick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Sep. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'birria.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Mexican Spanish, from Spanish, "thing of no consequence, trash," earlier "obstinacy, tantrum, whim," perhaps going back to Vulgar Latin *verrea, derivative of Latin verrēs "uncastrated male pig, boar," going back to Indo-European *u̯ers-ēn- "male of an animal" (in Latin restructured from a presumed nominative singular *werrēn), whence also, with varying ablaut, Sanskrit vŕṣan- "manly, mighty," (as noun) "male of an animal," Avestan varəšna- "manly," Ossetic wyrs- (Iron dialect), urs- (Digor dialect) "stallion," Lithuanian ver͂šis "calf, bull"

Note: This etymology of Spanish birria follows J. Coromines, Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico. Coromines sees the original sense as "obstinacy," alluding to a stereotypical quality of a boar, from which other senses have branched; he compares the meanings of Judeo-Spanish birra, embirra "rage, anger," Colombian Spanish birria "excessive devotion to a pastime or sport." Alongside Latin verrēs and other forms descending from Indo-European *u̯ers-ēn-, there is a second set of words with closely related meanings that lack the initial u; Sanskrit rṣabhá- "bull," Avestan aršan- "male," Old Persian ariya-rša-, a personal name, Armenian aṙn "ram," Greek ársēn, érsēn (Attic árrēn) "male." The relationship—or lack of relationship—of these words to each other has long been debated, as well as their possible relation to the verbal bases *h2ers-, taken to mean "to flow," and *u̯ers- (or h2u̯ers-) "to rain." T. Pronk (Historische Sprachforschung, Band 122 [2009], pp. 170-81) has proposed that the set without the semivowel resulted from misanalysis of a compound *gweh3u-ursēn, literally, "cow-male" (see cow entry 1) which he believes is attested directly in Tocharian A kayurṣ "bull," Tocharian B kaurṣe, and Old Icelandic kursi, kussi (the source of the form kursi, cited as "Old Norse" in G. Kroonen, Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic, is not specified). The initial u̯ of *u̯(e)rs-n- was taken as part of the preceding element *gw(e)h3u-, resulting in a new word with syllabic r.

First Known Use

1953, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of birria was in 1953

Dictionary Entries Near birria

Cite this Entry

“Birria.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

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