1 a : decorate, embellish
b : to add decorative or savory touches to (food or drink)
2 : to equip with accessories : furnish
3 : to take (as a debtor's wages) by legal authority : garnishee
"Among the viands was expected to be found a small assortment of cheesecakes and tarts. If there was also a plate of thin slices of pink ham garnished with green parsley, so much the better." - From Charlotte Brontë's 1849 novel Shirley
"Convicted offenders who don't pay their fines can have their driver's licenses suspended, and wages can be garnished if the Department of Taxation is notified." - From an article in the Virginian-Pilot, April 28, 2013
Did You Know?
Although we now mostly garnish food, the general application of the "decorate" meaning is older. The link between embellishing an object or space and adding a little parsley to a plate isn't too hard to see, but how does the sense relating to debtors' wages fit in? The answer lies in the word's Anglo-French root, "garnir," which means "to warn or to equip." Before wages were garnished, the debtor would be served with a legal summons or warning. The legal sense of "garnish" now focuses on the taking of the wages, but it is rooted in the action of furnishing the warning.
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Word Family Quiz
What relative of "garnish" means "an article of clothing"? The answer is …