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  1. a reedlike plant, Zingiber officinale, native to the East Indies but now cultivated in most tropical countries, having a pungent, spicy rhizome used in cookery and medicine.Compare ginger family.
  2. any of various related or similar plants.
  3. the rhizome of the ginger plant, ground, chopped, etc. and used as a flavoring.
  4. Informal. piquancy; animation: plenty of ginger in their performance of the dance.
  5. a yellowish or reddish brown.
verb (used with object)
  1. to treat or flavor with ginger.
  2. Informal. to impart piquancy or spirit to; enliven (usually followed by up): to ginger up a talk with a few jokes.
  1. flavored or made with ginger.

Origin of ginger

before 1000; Middle English ginger, gingivere < Old French gingivre < Latin gingiber, for zingiberi < Greek zingíberis; replacing Old English gingiber < Latin, as above


  1. a female given name, form of Virginia or Regina. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for ginger


  1. any of several zingiberaceous plants of the genus Zingiber, esp Z. officinale of the East Indies, cultivated throughout the tropics for its spicy hot-tasting underground stemSee also galangal Compare wild ginger
  2. the underground stem of this plant, which is used fresh or powdered as a flavouring or crystallized as a sweetmeat
  3. any of certain related plants
    1. a reddish-brown or yellowish-brown colour
    2. (as adjective)ginger hair
  4. informal liveliness; vigour
  5. (ˈɡɪŋə) informal a person with ginger hair
  1. (tr) to add the spice ginger to (a dish)
See also ginger up

Word Origin for ginger

C13: from Old French gingivre, from Medieval Latin gingiber, from Latin zinziberi, from Greek zingiberis, probably from Sanskrit śr̄ngaveram, from śr̄nga- horn + vera- body, referring to its shape
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 ginger

mid-14c., from Old English gingifer, from Medieval Latin gingiber, from Latin zingiberi, from Greek zingiberis, from Prakrit (Middle Indic) singabera, from Sanskrit srngaveram, from srngam "horn" + vera- "body," so called from the shape of its root. But this may be Sanskrit folk etymology, and the word may be from an ancient Dravidian name that also produced the Malayalam name for the spice, inchi-ver, from inchi "root." Cf. gin (v.). The word apparently was readopted in Middle English from Old French gingibre (Modern French gingembre). Meaning "spirit, spunk, temper" is from 1843, American English. Ginger-ale recorded by 1822; ginger-snap as a type of cookie is from 1855, American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper