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yam

[yam]
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noun
  1. the starchy, tuberous root of any of various climbing vines of the genus Dioscorea, cultivated for food in warm regions.
  2. any of these plants.
  3. the sweet potato.
  4. Scot. potato(def 1).
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Origin of yam

1580–90; compare Gullah nyam, Jamaican English nyaams, Sranan jamsi < sources in one or more West African languages (compare Wolof nyam(nyam), Fulani nyami to eat, Twi εnãm flesh, ànyinam, ayam’kàw-dé kinds of yam; earlier E forms < Portuguese inhame or Spanish (i)ñame
Can be confusedcassava sweet potato yam
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for yam

yam

noun
  1. any of various twining plants of the genus Dioscorea, of tropical and subtropical regions, cultivated for their edible tubers: family Dioscoreaceae
  2. the starchy tuber of any of these plants, which is eaten as a vegetable
  3. Southern US any of certain large varieties of sweet potato
  4. a former Scot name for the (common) potato
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Word Origin

C17: from Portuguese inhame, ultimately of West African origin; compare Senegal nyami to eat
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 yam

n.

1580s, from Portuguese inhame or Spanish igname, from a West African language (cf. Fulani nyami "to eat;" Twi anyinam "species of yam"); the word in American and Jamaican English probably is directly from West African sources.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper