May 16, 2011
- delicacy (noun)
- What does it mean?
- 1 : something pleasing to eat because it is rare or a luxury2 a : fineness of structure : daintiness b : weakness of body : frailty3 : the ability to express very slight degrees of feeling (as in painting or music)4 : consideration for the feelings of others5 : the ability to sense or indicate very slight differences : precision6 : the tendency to be or state of being squeamish7 : the quality or state of requiring careful treatment
- How do you use it?
- "Mama Bellini, by the way, turned out to be the best friend a cricket ever had. At noon she would rush home and fix Chester some delicacy for lunch, like . . . an entire vegetable dinner so small you could serve it on a silver dollar." (George Selden, The Cricket in Times Square)
- Are you a word wiz?
What food or drink was considered a delicacy when the word "delicacy" first entered English?Medieval food was fairly plain, but high-ranking lords and ladies of the 14th century enjoyed exotic spices and foodstuffs like almond milk. "Delicacy" first entered English in the 14th century and was first used to describe the state of being luxurious or of liking luxurious things. This sense is obsolete now, but it gave rise to the food-related sense we list above. How did we get the "dainty" or "weak" senses? Because the "luxurious" sense also gave rise to a sense that described something very fine or delicate in beauty--and from there, the extension to someone or something that was dainty, delicate, or weak was easy. All the above senses of "delicacy" are common today.