hor·​cha·​ta | \ (h)ȯr-ˈchä-tə How to pronounce horchata (audio) \
plural horchatas

Definition of horchata

: a cold sweetened beverage made from ground rice or almonds and usually flavorings such as cinnamon or vanilla Whatever you order, be sure to accompany it with a cold glass of horchata, the cinnamon-tinged rice milk drink.— Francisco Goldman [food historian Elaine] Gonzalez says it's a coincidence that horchata has evolved into a rice-base drink in the Americas, while Valencia is known worldwide for its rice cultivation. Also interesting, she says, is the fact that some American versions substitute almonds instead of using rice as a base.— Maureen Jenkins Food booths offered not only tacos, carne asada and cool horchata, but specialties from El Salvador, Venezuela and Guatemala.— Edward W. Lempinen

First Known Use of horchata

1824, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for horchata

borrowed from Mexican Spanish, going back to Spanish, "sweetened beverage made from tubers of the sedge Cyperus esculentus," probably borrowed from Italian orzata "beverage or infusion made from barley soaked in water, sweet syrup made from germinated barley grains and other ingredients, orgeat," from orzo "barley" (going back to Latin hordeum) + -ata -ade — more at orgeat

Note: Though horchata undoubtedly has some relation to Italian orzata, French orgeat, Medieval Latin hordeātum and cognate words, its precise origin is uncertain. Joan Coromines (Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico) acknowledged the possibility that it may be borrowed from Italian, but he pointed out that the expected outcome in Spanish would be *horzata (and additionally, if the source were Occitan, the outcome would likely be *orchate). Coromines was inclined to see the word as going back to an unattested forerunner in the Mozarabic (Romance speech of areas under Moorish rule) of Valencia that passed into modern Catalan and Spanish. A difficulty with this hypothesis, as Coromines recognized, is the late attestation of the Spanish word (the Real Academia Española dictionary of 1726-39); Catalan orxata is attested even later, the end of the eighteenth century. In the Iberian peninsula Latin hordeum "barley" has descendants only in Catalan and the dialects of Upper Aragon and Navarre, the inherited etymon being displaced by Spanish cebada "barley," Portuguese cevada, ultimately from Latin cibus "food."

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The first known use of horchata was in 1824

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Cite this Entry

“Horchata.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/horchata. Accessed 30 Sep. 2022.

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