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 The staid Good Housekeeping magazine printed a tamale recipe in 1894. David Reamer, Anchorage Daily News, 7 June 2021 Moms will be given a complimentary tamale on May 7 and a complimentary mimosa on May 8. Audrey Eads, Dallas News, 29 Apr. 2021 My cousin recently showed me the tamale recipe my dad gave him. Los Angeles Times, 25 Mar. 2021 So far, Emojination has successfully guided over 100 emoji proposals, including interracial couples, hijab, piñata, dumpling, and tamale. Matt Klein, Forbes, 15 Apr. 2021 The $50 tamale kit, which makes about 30 tamales, includes two pounds of ready-to-use masa, 40 corn husks and 1 pound each of steak, chicken and sweet potato and cheese fillings, plus a side of salsa. Los Angeles Times, 29 Dec. 2020 The restaurant is also bringing the tamale goodness to your doorsteps with the choice of delivery. Brayden Garcia, Dallas News, 18 Dec. 2020 Imagine a tamale made of green banana and root vegetable masa that is stuffed with savory meat or seafood, and then deep fried. New York Times, 22 Mar. 2021 The choice was the tamale, long a tradition in the Arkansas Delta. Rex Nelson, Arkansas Online, 20 Mar. 2021

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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Last Updated

18 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tamale.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tamale. Accessed 18 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for tamale



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

More from Merriam-Webster on tamale

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tamale


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