uma·​mi | \ ü-ˈmä-mē How to pronounce umami (audio) \

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

Bull & Bourbon: The new standout steakhouse has a four-star Steakhouse Burger, with melty smoked cheddar, thick bacon and sweet-and-umami red miso caramelized onions on a brioche bun, served with steak fries ($18). San Diego Union-Tribune, "Casinos put the sizzle in red-hot burger trend," 8 Sep. 2019 Very refreshing, with a pickly kind of flavor and some umami and the spice will hit you on the back. Amy Drew Thompson,, "Ready for this year’s Epcot Food & Wine Fest? This sneak peek may help your strategy," 19 Aug. 2019 Since then, ackee and codfish has become the foundation of my flavor palate: my source material and my litmus test, a dish whose sweetness and saltiness and umami determines everything else’s place on the spectrum. Bryan Washington, The New Yorker, "Coming Back to Ackee and Salt Fish, Jamaica’s National Dish," 1 July 2019 The addition of some very good anchovies rockets this dish to a higher gear, adding a belt of umami that acts like good fish sauce in a bowl of Vietnamese bún thịt nướng. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Strong pastas and perfect ice cream at Antico — who could ask for more?," 27 Aug. 2019 Surprisingly, the category of umami has been officially recognized only since 1985. Heloise, Washington Post, "Hints From Heloise: Clothes for class," 15 Aug. 2019 Also, key ingredients that are natural in umami are added: dried mushrooms, kelp, dried tuna and mackerel. Liz Biro, Indianapolis Star, "One of the most ridiculous ramens ever is coming to a new ramen shop on Indy's north side," 12 June 2019 The extreme range of flavors, from piercing vinegar to salty to sweet to barely perceptible umami, isn’t easy to recreate. Chris Morocco, Bon Appétit, "Make This Healthier Barbecue Sauce and Put It On Everything You Grill This Summer," 16 July 2019 Aside from adding umami, salt stops some of the chemical reactions and helps the rind develop. Marc Bona,, "The science of cheese: Cleveland doctor making ‘amazing’ artisanal cheeses," 26 June 2019

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

18 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for umami

The first known use of umami was in 1963

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More Definitions for umami


uma·​mi | \ ü-ˈmä-mē How to pronounce umami (audio) \

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

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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