mad·​e·​leine | \ ˈma-də-lən How to pronounce madeleine (audio) , ˌma-də-ˈlān How to pronounce madeleine (audio) \

Definition of madeleine

1 : a small rich shell-shaped cake
2 : 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 Watching the girls eat, I was struck by a deluge of emotions more often associated with the Proustian madeleine than with chicken strips and waffle fries. Los Angeles Times, "Will anyone pay $75 to visit Disney California Adventure with no rides open? You bet," 26 Feb. 2021 Brush madeleine pan with melted butter, then dust with flour and tap out excess. Kristina Kurek, Good Housekeeping, "Meyer Lemon Madeleines," 19 Feb. 2021 Perhaps it’s because a writer in Paris doesn’t really write about Paris—but about the trail of crumbs made by dipping a madeleine in lime blossom tea. Eduardo Halfon, The New York Review of Books, "A Few Seconds in Paris," 1 Aug. 2020 All that's left to do is dunk your fresh-baked madeleines in a steaming café au lait for the ultimate Parisian café experience at home. Alex Erdekian, Condé Nast Traveler, "10 Products to Help You Master French Cooking During the Quarantine," 15 Apr. 2020 Dip half of each madeleine in glaze then sprinkle with lavender and let set. Kate Merker, Good Housekeeping, "Lavender Madeleines," 10 Mar. 2020 Telfar, holding a packet of madeleines in one hand, said to a departing model. Emily Witt, The New Yorker, "Telfar Clemens’s Mass Appeal," 9 Mar. 2020 That little old lady onscreen may be your personal Proustian madeleine, tapping memories of your own mother. Manohla Dargis, New York Times, "The Moviegoer: Our Critic Misses Sitting in the Dark With You," 19 Mar. 2020 Place madeleine pan on preheated baking sheet and bake until golden and big bumps on top spring back when touched, 11 to 13 minutes. Kate Merker, Good Housekeeping, "Lavender Madeleines," 10 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'madeleine.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of madeleine

1829, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for madeleine

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

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Time Traveler for madeleine

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The first known use of madeleine was in 1829

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Last Updated

7 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Madeleine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

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