• synonyms


noun Chemistry.
  1. a soft, brown, lumpy gum resin having a bitter, acrid taste and an obnoxious odor, obtained from the roots of several Near Eastern plants belonging to the genus Ferula, of the parsley family: formerly used in medicine as a carminative and antispasmodic.
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Also a·sa·foet·i·da, asfetida.

Origin of asafetida

1350–1400; Middle English < Medieval Latin asafoetida, equivalent to asa (< Persian āzā mastic, gum) + Latin foetida, feminine of foetidus fetid
Also called devil's dung, food of the gods.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for asafoetida

Historical Examples of asafoetida

  • Other products are manna, suffron, asafoetida and other gums.

    Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 15, Slice 7


  • Everything was running over with wine, truffles, and asafoetida.


    Gustave Flaubert

  • He reproached himself for having brought neither camphor nor asafoetida, to administer with the corn-brandy.

    Feats on the Fiord

    Harriet Martineau

  • Saffron, asafoetida, and the gum ammoniac plant, are indigenous in parts of it.

  • It is generally a greasy stew of mutton, soaked with rancid butter and saffron, and seasoned with asafoetida.


    R. B. Cunninghame Graham

British Dictionary definitions for asafoetida



  1. a bitter resin with an unpleasant onion-like smell, obtained from the roots of some umbelliferous plants of the genus Ferula: formerly used as a carminative, antispasmodic, and expectorant
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Word Origin for asafoetida

C14: from Medieval Latin, from asa gum (compare Persian azā mastic) + Latin foetidus evil-smelling, fetid
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for asafoetida


alternative spelling of asafetida (q.v.); also see oe.

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late 14c., from Medieval Latin asa (Latinized from Persian aza "mastic") + foetida, fem. of foetidus "stinking" (see fetid).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper