bon·​ny·​clab·​ber ˈbä-nē-ˌkla-bər How to pronounce bonnyclabber (audio)
Northern US and Midland US

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In Irish Gaelic, bainne clabair means "thickened milk." In English, the equivalent word is bonnyclabber. Whether or not this bonnyclabber is "the bravest, freshest drink you ever tasted" (as the English Earl of Strafford enthused in 1635) or "would make a hungry parson caper" (to quote English poet Thomas Ward in 1716), it has been a part of country folks' diets for many a year. Today, you might see bonnyclabber as a recommended substitute for buttermilk in a recipe for Irish soda bread (complete with directions for making your own bonnyclabber). The American version of bonnyclabber, brought to U.S. shores by Scots-Irish immigrants, often goes one step further in the thickening process, to produce something more akin to cottage cheese.

Word History


Irish bainne clabair, from bainne milk + clabair, genitive of clabar sour thick milk

First Known Use

1605, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bonnyclabber was in 1605


Dictionary Entries Near bonnyclabber

Cite this Entry

“Bonnyclabber.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

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