Word of the Day


candy floss
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a sweet food consisting of very thin strings of sugar wrapped around a stick. The American word is cotton candy.

Origin and usage

The word candyfloss originated in the 1950s. ‘Candy’ likely comes from the Sanskrit word ‘khanda’ meaning ‘a piece of sugar’, and ‘floss’ is a word of uncertain origin that probably comes from the Latin word ‘floccus’ meaning ‘tuft of wool’.


Candyfloss refers to a confection made by spinning sugar in a machine until it forms thin strings. These strings are wrapped around a paper or wooden stick to make a large, light puff of spun sugar. Sometimes, flavouring or colouring is added. Candyfloss is popular at fairs, festivals, circuses and carnivals.

Sweet treats made from spun sugar date back centuries, but making spun sugar was a lengthy, expensive process so only the very wealthy could afford these candies. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that it became possible to make candyfloss cheaply and easily.

In 1897, an American dentist named William Morrison partnered with a confectionery manufacturer named John C. Wharton to invent the candyfloss machine. Their machine heated sugar, then an electric-powered motor spun a circular bin and used air to force the melted sugar through a wire screen to form the thin strings that make up a ball of candyfloss. The result is a light, fluffy sweet that melts in the mouth when eaten.

The first candyfloss made in this way was sold at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. People at the fair loved the sweet treat and candyfloss quickly became a very popular confection.

Many cultures around the world have confections similar to candyfloss, including sohan papdi in India, pismaniye in Turkey, kkul-tarae in Korea and dragon’s-beard candy in China.


cotton candy, fairy floss
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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