Definition of tamale
: cornmeal dough rolled with ground meat or beans seasoned usually with chili, wrapped usually in corn husks, and steamed
tamale was our Word of the Day on 12/07/2012. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
Hot tamale is sometimes used figuratively, as in our second example, to suggest sexual attractiveness, but it's the word's literal use that puts it in an interesting category. How many English food words can you name that derive from Nahuatl, a group of languages spoken by native peoples of Mexico and Central America? You've probably guessed that "tamale" gives you one; it came to us (by way of Mexican Spanish) from the Nahuatl "tamalli," a word for steamed cornmeal dough. Add to the menu "chili" (from "chīlli," identifying all those fiery peppers); "chocolate" (from "chocolātl," first used for a beverage made from chocolate and water); "guacamole" (from āhuacatl, meaning "avocado," plus mōlli, meaning "sauce"); and "tomato" (from "tomatl"). Top it all off with "chipotle" (a smoked and dried pepper), from "chīlli" and "pōctli" (meaning "something smoked").
Origin and Etymology of tamale
Mexican Spanish tamales, plural of tamal tamale, from Nahuatl tamalli steamed cornmeal dough
First Known Use: 1854
Definition of Tamale
town in northern Ghana population 371,351
TAMALE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of tamale for English Language Learners
: a Mexican food that consists of seasoned ground meat or beans rolled in cornmeal, wrapped in a corn husk, and steamed
TAMALE Defined for Kids
Definition of tamale for Students
: seasoned ground meat rolled in cornmeal, wrapped in corn husks, and steamed
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up tamale? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).