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  1. any of a class of pungent or aromatic substances of vegetable origin, as pepper, cinnamon, or cloves, used as seasoning, preservatives, etc.
  2. such substances collectively or as material: Cookies without spice can be tasteless.
  3. a spicy or aromatic odor or fragrance.
  4. something that gives zest: a spice of humor in his solemnity.
  5. a piquant, interesting element or quality; zest; piquancy: The anecdotes lent spice to her talk.
  6. Archaic. a small quantity of something; trace; bit.
verb (used with object), spiced, spic·ing.
  1. to prepare or season with a spice or spices.
  2. to give zest, piquancy, or interest to by something added.
  1. (initial capital letter) the proprietary name of a brand of synthetic cannabis compound.

Origin of spice

1175–1225; (noun) Middle English, aphetic form of Old French espice (French épice) from Latin speciēs “appearance, sort, kind” (see species), in Late Latin (plural): “goods, wares, spices, drugs”; (verb) Middle English spicen, in part derivative of the noun, in part from Old French espicer, derivative of espice
Related formsspice·a·ble, adjectivespice·less, adjectivespice·like, adjectiveo·ver·spice, verb, o·ver·spiced, o·ver·spic·ing.re·spice, verb (used with object), re·spiced, re·spic·ing.un·spiced, adjectivewell-spiced, adjective

Synonyms for spice

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5. tang, gusto, zip.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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Historical Examples of spice

British Dictionary definitions for spice


    1. any of a variety of aromatic vegetable substances, such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, used as flavourings
    2. these substances collectively
  1. something that represents or introduces zest, charm, or gusto
  2. rare a small amount
  3. Yorkshire dialect confectionery
verb (tr)
  1. to prepare or flavour (food) with spices
  2. to introduce charm or zest into
Derived Formsspicer, noun

Word Origin for spice

C13: from Old French espice, from Late Latin speciēs (pl) spices, from Latin speciēs (sing) kind; also associated with Late Latin spīcea (unattested) fragrant herb, from Latin spīceus having spikes of foliage; see spica
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 spice

early 13c., from Old French espice, from Late Latin species (plural) "spices, goods, wares," from Latin "kind, sort" (see species). Early druggists recognized four "types" of spices: saffron, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg. Figurative sense of "slight touch or trace of something" is recorded from 1530s. Spice-cake first attested 1520s.


"to season with spices," early 14c. (implied in spiced), from spice (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with spice


see variety is the spice of life.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.