Word of the Day



a plant whose leaves and seeds are used to give flavour to food. The American word is cilantro.

Origin and usage

With origins in multiple languages, the word coriander most likely derives from the 14th century Old French word ‘coriandre’, from the Latin ‘coriandrum’ and the Greek ‘koriannon’. Some botanists have suggested that the Greek root of the word coriander could be related to the term ‘koris’, meaning ‘bedbug’, which refers to the unpleasant smell that the plant’s fruit gives off before it ripens.


Coriander, also known as Chinese parsley or cilantro, is an annual herb that must flower and reseed in order to reproduce. In American English the leaves are called cilantro, while the seeds are called coriander. While all the components of the plant are edible, the seeds and leaves of coriander are the most popular and are commonly used for cooking in many cultures. Found in many areas of the world, including western Asia and southern Europe, coriander is thought to be native to Iran, and there is evidence that it was also grown by the ancient Egyptians.

Coriander is most popular for its zesty, citrus-like flavour, for most people who eat it at least. However, there is a small portion of the population with a gene which gives them the ability to recognize aldehyde, a chemical that is part of the composition of both coriander and bath soap. For these individuals, this can make the leaves taste unpleasantly soapy.


“A friend of mine used to say coriander had a dehumanizing effect on a person, i.e., it refreshes your parts but it weakens your spirit. For some reason or other it had the opposite effect on me, i.e., my spirit was refreshed…”

(Venedikt Yerofeyev)


cilantro, herb, spice, condiment

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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1 Comment

  • Note that the Yerofeyev quote on “coriander” does not refer to the spice as such, but to coriander-flavoured schnapps

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