bot·​tar·​ga bō-ˈtär-gə How to pronounce bottarga (audio)
: the dried, salted, pressed roe of various fish and especially the gray mullet and bluefin tuna
Bottarga is the pressed and salted roe of many kinds of fish. It's important in the Mediterranean culture. In Sicily they eat slices of it on ripe tomatoes.Florence Fabricant, New York Times, 10 July 2002
The theme here, if there is a theme, is probably the perfection of regular-guy Italian food, so that the seared swordfish carpaccio is sprinkled with bottargaJonathan Gold, Los Angeles Times, 11 May 2013

Word History


earlier botarge, buttargo, potargo, borrowed from Italian bottarga, earlier also bottarica, buttagra, borrowed from Arabic buṭarkha, plural buṭārikh, borrowed from a vernacular form of Middle Greek ōotárichon, from Greek ōio-, combining form of ōión "egg" + tárīchos, tárīchon "fish or meat preserved by salting or smoking" (perhaps of substratal origin)

Note: In the 1598 translation (Epulario, or the Italian Banquet) of the early cooking text Epulario, qual tratta del modo di cucinare (Venice, 1547; earliest edition 1517) attributed to Giovanni de Rosselli, the Italian plural bottarghe is rendered as botarge—apparently the first appearance of a form of the word in English. The etymology is discussed in detail in John P. Hughes and R. Gordon Wasson, "The Etymology of Botargo," American Journal of Philology, vol. 68, no. 4 (1947), pp. 414-18. The authors reject—in all likelihood correctly—the Coptic intermediary hypothesized by Skeat and the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Byzantine Greek form ōotárichon (in the plural ōotáricha) is found in the 11th-century De alimentorum facultatibus ("On the Properties of Foods"), a revision by the Jewish physician and scholar Simeon Seth of a text attributed to Michael Psellos (edited by B. Langkavel, Leipzig, 1868). (For phonetic reasons, Modern Greek avgotáracho is unlikely to be the precursor of the Arabic word.)

First Known Use

1817, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bottarga was in 1817

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Cite this Entry

“Bottarga.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2024.

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