bre·​sao·​la bre-ˈsō-lə How to pronounce bresaola (audio)
: air-dried, salt-cured beef that is sliced very thin and typically served as an appetizer
Most trattorias serve bresaola simply, sliced thin, often with a drizzle of olive oil.Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, 15 Mar. 1993

Word History


borrowed from northern regional Italian bresàola, brasàola, borrowed from Upper Italian (Val Bregaglia) brazawla, (Chiavenna) brisàvola, going back to a presumed diminutive *brasatula of *brasata "slice of cooked meat, cutlet," from *brasare "to cook over coals, toast, roast" (whence literary Italian brasare, earlier brasciare, bragiare, Piedmontese brasè, Milanese brasà, verb corresponding to early Italian bragia, brascia, bracia "live coals") + *-ata -ade

Note: Some recent Italian publications contain quite speculative etymologies of bresàola, occasioned by the now obscured relation between the etymon and the contemporary meaning of the word in the Valtellina—hence, one of several hypotheses is that the base bras-, bres- alludes to embers used to dry the meat, or to heat the place where the meat is dried (see, for example, the article "L'etimologia documenta un'antichissima origine della bresaola" in the culinary magazine Premiata Salumeria Italiana, no. 5, 1999). However, outcomes of pre-Upper Italian *brasatula are well-attested outside the Valtellina, e.g., brasavole (plural) "fetta di carne di maiale, braciola" ("slice of pork, braciola") in the 1549 cookbook of Cristoforo di Messisbugo (of Ferrara), and Bolognese brasadla/brazádla "braciuola, fetta sottile di carne cotte sulla graticola o in padella" ("braciola, thin slice of meat cooked on a grill or in a pan"). For bibliography of attestations, see Max Pfister et al., Lessico etimologico italiano (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1979-), vol. 7, column 191.

First Known Use

1963, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bresaola was in 1963

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Cite this Entry

“Bresaola.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

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