1. a tropical, herbaceous plant, Sesamum indicum, whose small oval seeds are edible and yield an oil.
  2. the seeds themselves, used to add flavor to bread, crackers, etc.
  3. open sesame.

Origin of sesame

1400–50; < Greek sēsámē sesame plant ≪ Akkadian shamashshammū, derived from shaman shammī plant oil; replacing sesam, late Middle English sysane < Latin sēsamum < Greek sḗsamon sesame seed
Also called benne (for defs 1, 2). Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for sesame

Contemporary Examples of sesame

Historical Examples of sesame

  • It was made from pig's fat, sesame, bitter almonds, and turpentine.



  • When he reached the entrance of the cavern, he pronounced the words: "Open, Sesame!"

  • When he had done he stood before the door, and pronouncing the words: "Shut, Sesame!"

  • But to Mr. Bell they were magic music, the sesame to a new country.

    Ted and the Telephone

    Sara Ware Bassett

  • Now Nos. 28 and 29 are the premises of the Sesame Club for ladies.

    Mayfair, Belgravia, and Bayswater

    Geraldine Edith Mitton

British Dictionary definitions for sesame


  1. a tropical herbaceous plant, Sesamum indicum, of the East Indies, cultivated, esp in India, for its small oval seeds: family Pedaliaceae
  2. the seeds of this plant, used in flavouring bread and yielding an edible oil (benne oil or gingili)
Also called: benne, gingili, til

Word Origin for sesame

C15: from Latin sēsamum, from Greek sēsamon, sēsamē, of Semitic origin; related to Arabic simsim
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 sesame

early 15c., probably from Middle French sisame and directly from Latin sesamum (nominative sesama), from Greek sesamon (Doric sasamon) "seed or fruit of the sesame plant," a very early borrowing via Phoenician from Late Babylonian *shawash-shammu (cf. Assyrian shamash-shammu "sesame," literally "oil-seed"). First as a magic password in 1785 translation of Galland's "Mille et une nuits," where it opens the door of the thieves' den in "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." Phrase open sesame current since about 1826.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper