Word of the Day


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1. a small sweet cake that is usually flat and in the shape of a circle

2. a small file that a website automatically sends to your computer when you connect to the website, containing information about your use of the internet

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The word cookie is first recorded in the mid 18th century in a reference to a plain bun eaten in Scotland. The sense of a small, flat, sweet cake, most common in American English, appeared in the early 19th century and is probably derived from a Dutch word, ‘koekje’, meaning ‘little cake’. The computer meaning of a small packet of data passed between computers or programs dates from the 1980s.


Although the word cookie is generally used in American English to refer to what British English calls a biscuit, the term is also used in British English to refer to a softer, sweeter kind of biscuit, often with pieces of chocolate or nuts in it. The computing meaning follows a common pattern where the names of ordinary, everyday objects are adopted to refer to technical concepts or entities that would otherwise remain obscure to most people. Cookie has produced several compounds and idioms. An extended meaning of the word refers informally to a person who has particular qualities: the most usual modifiers are ‘smart’ and ‘tough’.  A cookie jar is a jar for storing cookies, but if you are caught with your hand in it you are caught doing something wrong. A cookie cutter is a tool for cutting cookies into a particular shape before baking, but cookie-cutter is an adjective used to refer to people, things or ideas that are identical to others and not original in any way. Finally, if you say that’s the way the cookie crumbles, you are making the fatalistic observation that a situation is inevitable and cannot be changed.


“The Vice-Presidency is sort of like the last cookie on the plate. Everybody insists he won’t take it, but somebody always does.”
(Bill Vaughan, American journalist)

“Count your cookies, not your problems.”
(Cookie Monster)

Related words

cracker, flapjack, shortbread

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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