chi·​mi·​chur·​ri | \ ˌchi-mē-ˈchu̇r-ē How to pronounce chimichurri (audio) \

Definition of chimichurri

: a savory Argentinean sauce or marinade typically made with finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, oregano, vinegar, and olive oil

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First Known Use of chimichurri

1967, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for chimichurri

borrowed from American Spanish (Argentina, Uruguay), probably a permutation of Spanish chirriburri, variant of churriburri, zurriburri “hubbub, base individual, rabble,” probably borrowed from Basque zurrumurru, zurruburru “noise, rumor”

Note: Chimichurri belongs to a family of Spanish expressive words of variable meaning. The path by which the word, apparently unattested in this meaning before the 1950’s, attached itself to a sauce is unclear, or at least undocumented. In the comedy El derrumbe (published 1911, first performed in 1909) by the Argentine playwright and director Vincente Martínez Cuitiño, la chimichurri is an epithet for a female character; it evidently means something to the other characters (and to the audience), but the allusion appears to have been lost. A peculiar and isolated onomastic attestation of the word is found much earlier, in the official diary for 1783 of Francisco Javier Caro, secretary to the Viceroyalty of Granada (Diario de la secretaria del virreynato de Santa Fee, de Bogotá, Madrid, 1904, p. 19): “A las 11 1/2 volvió Torres y me avisó que me solicitaba D.ⁿ Juan de Uricoechea (alias) Chirriburri, óChimichurri … ” (“At 11:30 Torres returned and notified me that I was being requested by Don Juan de Uricoechea (alias) Chirriburri, or Chimichurri … ”). The juxtaposition suggests (perhaps speciously) that chimichurri is a variant of chirriburri. The latter word, in turn, leads to churriburri, which—usually as a cross-reference to zurriburri—is solidly embedded in Spanish dictionaries. Zurriburri is defined in the Real Academia Española’s Diccionario de la lengua española as “barullo, confusión” (“hubbub, confusion”), “sujeto vil, despreciable y de muy baja esfera” (“base, worthless person of a very low social class”), “conjunto de personas de la ínfima plebe o de malos procederes” (“group of persons of the lowest class or of bad behavior”). The word is known from the 1620’s (Francisco de Quevedo, Gonzalo Correas). Joan Coromines (Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico) places zurriburri under the onomatopoeic verbs zurrir and zumbar “to whir, hum, buzz, etc.” However, of undoubted relevance to the etymology of zurriburri is Basque zurrumurru, zurruburru “rumor, noise.” Given the productive nature in Basque of reduplicative compounds with initial m- or b- (see Mark R.V. Southern, Contagious Couplings: Transmission of Expressives in Yiddish Echo Phrases, Greenwood Press, 2005, pp. 157-59, with references to the Bascological literature), and the origin of zurriburri should probably be sought in Basque rather than in Spanish.

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The first known use of chimichurri was in 1967

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Cite this Entry

“Chimichurri.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

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