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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a hard Italian almond biscuit often eaten with a hot drink

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun biscotti is the plural form of the Italian ‘biscotto’ meaning a hard, sweet biscuit. ‘Biscotto’ is first recorded as being used in English in the 1940s, and singular biscotti in the mid 90s.


Biscotti is a recent submission to the Open Dictionary by an anonymous user, probably the same person who submitted ‘panini‘ at around the same time. Both are commonly used to refer to a single item, despite the fact that they both end with the Italian plural marker ‘i’. English, of course, has form when it comes to changing the grammar of Italian borrowings. We speak of making a lasagne, and say that the spaghetti was delicious, regardless of the fact that both these words are plural in the original Italian. But while it would be fairly unusual to talk about a single ‘spaghetto’ or ‘tortellino‘, there is nothing unusual about a single ‘biscotto’ or ‘panino’. Despite this, English speakers have decided on the whole that both biscotti and ‘panini’ are singular forms: in the corpus we use to compile Macmillan Dictionary the plural forms outnumber the singular by more than ten to one, which is a big margin even if we allow for there being some genuine plural uses in there. Both biscotti and ‘panini’ are frequently preceded by the determiner ‘a’, and often pluralized with an added ‘s’, clear indicators that they are being treated as singular forms.


“I could possibly be tempted to dunk a biscotti in an Americano.”
(enTenTen15 corpus)

“I had a very nice turkey, bacon and tomato panini.”
(enTenTen15 corpus)

“They serve mainly pastas and paninis.
(enTenTen15 corpus)

Related words

biscuit, brownie, cookie, wafer

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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