plural bredies
South Africa
: a stew containing meat and a vegetable

Word History


borrowed from Afrikaans bredie, borrowed from Indo-Portuguese Creole bredos "edible greens," going back to Portuguese, plural of bredo "any of several species of amaranth eaten for its greens, as Amaranthus blitum," going back to Latin blitum

Note: The plural of Portuguese bredo, in an expanded meaning "edible greens," appears in Indian Ocean creoles; cf. bredos, glossed "Herbs," in John Callaway, A Vocabulary, in the Ceylon Portuguese, and English Languages (Colombo: Wesleyan Mission Press, 1820), p. 14; also in French-based creoles, as Réunion Creole bred "leaves of a great variety of plants that are cooked to accompany rice or that are used in broth" ("feuilles de plantes très variées, que l'on fait cuire et qui accompagnent le riz, ou que l'on fait en bouillon") (see the entry bred "feuilles comestibles" in Annegret Bollée, Dictionnaire étymologique des créoles français de l'Océan Indien, vol. 1, parts 1-4, Hamburg: Buske, 1993). The earliest known record of the word in South Africa was made by the German physician and explorer Martin Hinrich Lichtenstein (1780-1857), who recorded it at a sojourn on a farm in the Hex River area (Western Cape) in 1805 or 1806: "Man bewirthete uns hier mit einem ächt nationalen africanischen Gericht, dass in einem Muss aus zerkochten Kürbissen mit klein gehackten Zwiebeln, eingesalzenem Seefisch, und Cayennepfeffer besteht. Man nennt es hier Kalebassbredi und es ist, selbst für den nordeuropäischen Gaumen, dem sonst die stark gewürzten capischen Gerichte nicht zu behagen pflegen, eine schmackhafte Speise" (Reisen im südlichen Africa in den Jahren 1803, 1804, 1805 und 1806, Zweiter Theil, Berlin: C. Salfeld, 1812, p.135-36). In a footnote, Lichtenstein expands on the word: "Breedi bedeutet in der Sprache der Madagascaren Spinat. (S. Bruns Geogr. von Africa 3ter Theil S. 103). Dies Wort ist durch die Sclaven hieher gebracht und man versteht jetzt in der ganzen Colonie jedes Gemüse darunter, das wie Kohl, Spinat oder Sauerampfer gehackt und mit rothem Pfeffer gegessen wird. Besonders führt noch eine Art Rumex, auch als Pflanze den Namen Breedi. Im Portugiesischen heisst Bredos das Blitum virgatum, das als Gemüse dient." ("We were here entertained with a genuine African dish, which is a sort of soup made of baked gourds, with small onions sliced in, some salt fish, and Cayenne pepper: it is called Kalebassbreedi, and even to the palates of the north of Europe, which not easily accommodate themselves to the hotly spiced dishes of the Cape, is an agreeable kind of food." - Footnote: "Breedi signifies in the Madagascar tongue Spinage; the word is brought hither by the slaves, and at present, throughout the whole colony, every sort of vegetable which, like cabbage, spinage, or sorrel, is cut to pieces and dressed with Cayenne pepper, is included under the name Breedi. To a particular sort of Rumex in its state as a plant, this name is also given. In the Portuguese language, the Blitum virgatum, which is used as a vegetable for the table, bears the name of Bredos." Translation from Travels in Southern Africa In the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806, by Henry Lichtenstein, translated by Anne Plumptre, vol. 2, London: H. Colburn, 1812.) Lichtenstein acknowledges that the word has affinities with Portuguese bredos, but nonetheless cannot resist claiming, despite the contradiction, that it is from "the Madagascar tongue." The geographical work he cites is Neue systematische Erdbeschreibung von Afrika, by the theologian and polymath Paul Jakob Bruns (3. Teil, Nuremberg, 1799). Bruns introduces the word Brede in an entry for "Anghive," a plant from Madagascar (Malagasy angivy, name for a Solanum species, S. erythracanthum), but does not claim that the word comes from Madagascar. He does, however, cite Guillaume Le Gentil de la Galaisière, Voyage dans les mers de l'Inde, fait par ordre du Roi, à l'occasion du Passage de Vénus, tome 2 (Paris, 1781), who reports the following about the settlement on the bay of Antongil: " … les Noirs ne s'embarrassent point des légumes qu'il faut se donner la peine de cultiver; ils trouvent en quantité dans les bois, les brettes (espèce d'épinard sauvage fort amer) qu'ils cuisent dans l'eau & qui font tous leurs légumes" (" … the blacks do not bother with vegetables that one would have to take the trouble to cultivate; in the forest they find in abundance brettes (a very bitter kind of wild spinach) that they cook in water and that serves as their sole vegetable") (p. 462-63). But this brettes is undoubtedly the Indian Ocean creole word cited above in Bollée's Dictionnaire étymologique, not a Malagasy word. For further early citations of bredie in English and Afrikaans, see A Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles (Oxford, 1996) and Etimologiewoordeboek van Afrikaans (electronic edition, Stellenbosch, 2003).

Love words?

You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!

Dictionary Entries Near bredie

Cite this Entry

“Bredie.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!