mad·​e·​leine ˈma-də-lən How to pronounce madeleine (audio) ˌma-də-ˈlān How to pronounce madeleine (audio)
: a small rich shell-shaped cake
: one that evokes a memory

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The Madeleine Goes Back to France

The madeleine is said to have been named after a 19th-century French cook named Madeleine Paumier, but it was the French author Marcel Proust who immortalized the pastry in his 1913 book Swann's Way, the first volume of his seven-part novel Remembrance of Things Past. In that work, a taste of tea-soaked cake evokes a surge of memory and nostalgia. As more and more readers chewed on the profound mnemonic power attributed to a mere morsel of cake, the word madeleine itself became a designation for anything that evokes a memory.

Examples of madeleine in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web For those of you with a sweet tooth, there are a half dozen different macaroons, cookies, madeleines, muffins, and cakes (almond, carrot, chocolate mouse, and more). Doug Gollan, Forbes, 23 Feb. 2024 Pastry options include its lemon madeleines, chocolate tarts and eclairs. Jenna Thompson, Kansas City Star, 19 Jan. 2024 Satisfy your every cookie craving, with more than 75 recipes like cold brew cookies with white chocolate and espresso beans, red velvet madeleines, lemon basil curd butter cookies, and more. L. Daniela Alvarez, Better Homes & Gardens, 8 Feb. 2024 Well, are madeleines or canelés part of the baking canon? Jessica Carbone, Saveur, 19 Dec. 2023 Maybe when his character bites the madeleine or hears Vinteuil’s sonata. David Marchese David Marchese Illustration By Bráulio Amado, New York Times, 26 Oct. 2023 This scene with madeleines is one of his — and literature’s — most memorable. Anna Luisa Rodriguez, Washington Post, 11 Oct. 2023 Trader Joe's gluten-free madeleines are a relatively new item, introduced in spring 2023. Endia Fontanez, The Arizona Republic, 5 Aug. 2023 Barbie is still a magnet for controversy about what the feminine ideal is, as well as a Proustian madeleine for multiple generations whose childhoods were shaped by dressing her up as a vision of what a grown woman might be. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 18 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'madeleine.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French, perhaps from Madeleine Paumier, 19th century French pastry cook

First Known Use

1830, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of madeleine was in 1830


Dictionary Entries Near madeleine

Cite this Entry

“Madeleine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

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