water ice

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ice formed by direct freezing of fresh or salt water, and not by compacting of snow.
a frozen dessert, similar to sherbet, made of water, sweetener, and fruit syrup or other flavorings.
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Origin of water ice

First recorded in 1810–20
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does water ice mean?

Water ice is a frozen dessert, very similar to Italian ice, made in Philadelphia.

How is water ice pronounced?

[ waw-ter ahys ]

Where does water ice come from?

Italian ice is the name of an Italian frozen dessert, like a sorbet or snow cone, made from water and fruit.

The Philadelphia version of this dessert goes back to the late 19th century when the city experienced a large influx of Italian immigrants. These new arrivals began selling Italian ice to the locals.

In 1945, John’s Water Ice opened to sell the dessert. The establishment makes no claim to the name water ice. It also listed the item on the menu without explanation, suggesting water ice had already become a local name for the food.

How is water ice used in real life?

Water ice is a Philadelphia regionalism, most commonly used by residents of the area and people who live near it, including New Jersey and Delaware.

More examples of water ice:

“Philadelphia may be best known for its greasy cheesesteaks and technicolored water ice, but there’s so much more to eat in the City of Brotherly Love.”
—Regan Stephens, Eater, September 2018


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use water ice in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for water ice

water ice

an ice cream made from a frozen sugar syrup flavoured with fruit juice or purée; sorbet
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