uma·​mi | \ ü-ˈmä-mē \

Definition of umami

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the taste sensation that is produced by several amino acids and nucleotides (such as glutamate and aspartate) and has a rich or meaty flavor characteristic of cheese, cooked meat, mushrooms, soy, and ripe tomatoes : savory entry 2 sense 2 Umami is often described as a meaty flavor and is particularly strong in aged or fermented products, like cheese and wine.— Carla Ranicki — compare bitter entry 2 sense 1b, salty entry 2 sense 1b, sour entry 2 sense 1b, sweet entry 3 sense 2



Definition of umami (Entry 2 of 2)

: being, inducing, or marked by one of the five basic taste sensations that is typically induced by several amino acids and nucleotides (such as glutamate and aspartate) and has a rich or meaty flavor characteristic of cheese, cooked meat, mushrooms, soy, and ripe tomatoes A crab risotto made from local crabs is powerful with the big umami flavor of brown meat.— Jay Rayner : savory entry 1 sense e — compare bitter entry 1 sense 1a, salty entry 1 sense 1b, sour entry 1 sense 1, sweet entry 1 sense 1

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Did You Know?

A Japanese scientist was the first to discover the savory taste of the amino acid glutamic acid, which was found to occur in soup stocks made with seaweed. This fifth basic taste - alongside sweet, sour, salty, and bitter - was named umami, meaning "savoriness" in Japanese. Umami can be experienced in foods such as mushrooms, anchovies, and mature cheeses, as well as in foods enhanced with monosodium glutamate, or MSG, a sodium salt derived from glutamic acid.

Examples of umami in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Tofu-ru, like miso, fish sauce and dashi, evolved over centuries in the interest of adding umami — savory and mouth-filling flavor — to the plain food that people ate for most of human history. Julia Moskin, New York Times, "Mastering Chinese-Style Ribs at Home," 9 July 2018 The taste of this magic sauce combines the peppery freshness of basil, the tingle of raw garlic, the luxuriousness of olive oil, the savory-umami of Parmesan and the earthiness of pine nuts. Bethany Jean Clement, The Seattle Times, "The perfection of pesto: a public service announcement," 18 July 2018 Fleischman says those two ingredients ramp up the umami of this recipe. Chris Ross,, "Blender gazpacho has umami flavors," 9 July 2018 White and green asparagus, cooked sous-vide in milk, were garnished with a poached egg, ramson oil, bonito flakes and ramps, the last adding some pleasant astringency to a soothing umami-rich dish. Alexander Lobrano, New York Times, "New New Nordic Cuisine Takes Hold in Oslo," 29 May 2018 As the mother sauce traveled through different places and times, ingredients like mushrooms, tamarind and anchovies were deployed to imitate its satisfying umami; Worcestershire sauce and Indonesian kecap manis are both popular descendants. Julia Moskin, New York Times, "Mastering Chinese-Style Ribs at Home," 9 July 2018 That’s right—the person who discovered umami is the same person who created MSG. Yvette D'entremont, SELF, "We All Really Need to Stop Freaking Out About MSG," 20 June 2018 There was just enough cheese to add its satisfying umami without being heavy, and the tomato sauce, quickly cooked, was the perfect sweet-acid component to balance the fried eggplant slices. Evan Kleiman,, "Cucina Italiana: The joy of eggplant. Try making a timbale," 5 July 2018 Dried seaweed flakes added a bit of crunch, umami and nutrients when strewn over salads, rice dishes and seafood pasta. Florence Fabricant, New York Times, "Coming Soon to a Grocery Near You," 9 July 2018

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


1963, in the meaning defined above


1978, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for umami


Japanese, savoriness, flavor

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

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The first known use of umami was in 1963

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More Definitions for umami


uma·​mi | \ ü-ˈmä-mē \

Medical Definition of umami

: a taste sensation that is meaty or savory and is produced by several amino acids and nucleotides (as aspartate, inosinate, and glutamate)

Other Words from umami

umami adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on umami

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with umami Encyclopedia article about umami

Comments on umami

What made you want to look up umami? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to gather or build up little by little

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