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Latin pigmentum meant first and foremost ‘colouring matter’ (it has given English pigment). But it also came to be used for a ‘spiced drink’ (English borrowed it with this meaning too, in the thirteenth century, in the form piment); and hence for any ‘spice,’ and in particular for ‘pepper’. From it was descended Spanish pimienta, ‘pepper’, which was borrowed into English in the seventeenth century as pimento and used first for ‘cayenne pepper’, then for ‘allspice’, and most recently (in the twentieth century) as a synonym of pimiento. And where did pimiento come from? It too goes back to Latin pigmentum, and reached English in the mid-nineteenth century via Spanish, where pimiento denotes the red sweet pepper or capsicum. It is used in this sense in English, particularly in the context of Spanish cuisine, and it also denotes the small slivers of red pepper used for stuffing cocktail olives.

Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.

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