ta·​ma·​le | \ tə-ˈmä-lē How to pronounce tamale (audio) \

Definition of tamale

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: cornmeal dough rolled with ground meat or beans seasoned usually with chili, wrapped usually in corn husks, and steamed


geographical name
Ta·​ma·​le | \ tä-ˈmä-lā How to pronounce Tamale (audio) \

Definition of Tamale (Entry 2 of 2)

town in northern Ghana population 371,351

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Tamale Has Origins in South America

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").

Examples of tamale in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

And the music goes really well with steamy weather, tamales and tortas. Rob Hubbard, Twin Cities, "Review: Farewell, Vienna, Minnesota Orchestra’s Sommerfest has gone Latin," 13 July 2019 There were dishes like pork cheek and pumpkin tamales and snow crab black truffle macaroni and cheese with peas and fontina cream. Liz Biro, Indianapolis Star, "CharBlue is the 6th Downtown Indy restaurant to close this year," 8 July 2019 How many people have their first exposure to Warrior One right across from a van selling tamales and another one making baby doughnuts? Sara Clarkson, chicagotribune.com, "Clarkson: Unheralded part of farmers market: fitness class," 3 July 2019 Inside, families dig into fresh-from-the-steamer tamales and sorbet-like nieves, made in-house in flavors like mango, jicama and watermelon. Max Falkowitz, New York Times, "A Twilight Tour at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Refreshments in Sunset Park to Follow.," 26 June 2019 Help a local cook prepare traditional specialties like gallo pinto, tamales, and tortillas; play a game of pick-up fútbol; or practice Spanish with your new Costa Rican friends. National Geographic, "Costa Rica Middle School Expedition," 12 June 2019 The bankrupt company makes barbacoa, tamales, fajitas and other Mexican food products under the brand name Andy Garcia Foods. Patrick Danner, ExpressNews.com, "Family-owned San Antonio food company may go on sales block," 17 July 2019 Darron Breedon, who once ate a record 70 two-ounce market street tamales in 10 minutes, finished second beind Chestnut after scarfing 50 hot dogs. Torrey Hart, SI.com, "For Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest Judges, It's 'A Lot of Counting'," 4 July 2019 The Yard The West Seventh-area playground will have live mariachi and other music, a special margarita menu, tamales, pinatas, sopapillas and more. Robert Philpot, star-telegram, "Tip your hat — or your sombrero — to this list of Cinco de Mayo/Kentucky Derby events | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 2 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tamale.' 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 tamale


1854, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tamale


Mexican Spanish tamales, plural of tamal tamale, from Nahuatl tamalli steamed cornmeal dough

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Dictionary Entries near tamale






Tamalpais, Mount


Statistics for tamale

Last Updated

9 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for tamale

The first known use of tamale was in 1854

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English Language Learners Definition of tamale

: a Mexican food that consists of seasoned ground meat or beans rolled in cornmeal, wrapped in a corn husk, and steamed


ta·​ma·​le | \ tə-ˈmä-lē How to pronounce tamale (audio) \

Kids Definition of tamale

: seasoned ground meat rolled in cornmeal, wrapped in corn husks, and steamed

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More from Merriam-Webster on tamale

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tamale

Spanish Central: Translation of tamale

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tamale

Comments on tamale

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