A Scrumptious Spread Of 17 Words To Describe Food With Flavor Published November 15, 2021 A buffet of food words Holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are times to celebrate with family, express gratitude, and gather with friends and family. But they are also occasions where we eat—a lot. When it comes to talking about your favorite holiday dish, you may find yourself at a loss for words. Well, we have your back there. We have rounded up synonyms for each of the five flavors: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. We’ve also thrown in some alternatives to delicious for good measure. Because, sometimes, describing the flavor profile of your grandmother’s famous pumpkin pie or your father’s legendary brisket is less important than just letting people know how good it tastes. syrupy syrupy We are going to start with synonyms for sweet. One of the most informal of these synonyms is syrupy. Syrupy means “having the appearance or quality of syrup; thick or sweet.” Syrup is a substance that often contains sugar, such as molasses. As an adjective, syrupy can have a negative connotation when applied to things other than food. In these cases, it can mean “mawkish,” as in He spoke in a syrupy, ingratiating tone of voice. When it comes to food, though, syrupy is simply descriptive. saccharine saccharine A more formal word for sweet is saccharine [ sak-er-in ]. Saccharine has a variety of meanings, including “very sweet to the taste; sugary.” Saccharine ultimately comes from Sanskrit śarkarā, meaning “sugar.” Like syrupy, saccharine can have a negative connotation when applied to things other than food. nectarous nectarous A less-common synonym for sweet is nectarous, which means “delicious or sweet.” Nectar is “the saccharine secretion of a plant, which attracts the insects or birds that pollinate the flower.” If you have a sweet tooth, you may be attracted to nectarous treats, like honey cakes or candied fruit. There’s a treasure trove of sweetness waiting for you, with this bigger collection of words to use instead of sweet! briny briny The second of the flavors is salty, associated with foods that have salt in them. A synonym for salty is briny, “of or like brine; salty.” Brine is “water saturated or strongly impregnated with salt.” You are most likely to be familiar with brine from the vinegary water in a pickle jar. saliferous saliferous A more formal term for salty is saliferous [ suh–lif-er-uhs ], meaning “containing or producing salt.” Sal is the pharmacological term for “salt.” Essentially, saliferous is a scientific way to describe popcorn or potato chips. piquant piquant Our next synonym for salty is also closely associated with a bitter taste—after all, the two flavors can often be found together. Piquant is an adjective that means “agreeably pungent or sharp in taste or flavor; pleasantly biting or tart.” Piquant comes from the French word meaning “pricking.” Something that is very salty certainly pricks the tongue. How do some tastes—like salty—become descriptions for personality traits? Read about them here. curdled curdled The third taste is sour, which means “having an acid taste, resembling that of vinegar.” It can be controversial—not everyone likes sour-tasting foods, while others cannot get enough of them. One word to describe a somewhat unpleasant sour taste is curdled, meaning “spoiled; turned sour.” It is most often used to describe dairy products that have gone off. vinegary vinegary Another everyday term that means sour, although with a more positive connotation than curdled, is vinegary, “of the nature of or resembling vinegar; sour; acid.” As you may have guessed, something that is vinegary will often contain vinegar. Like some of the other terms we have looked at, vinegary has a somewhat derogatory meaning when applied to people. In these cases, it means “having a disagreeable character or manner; crabbed; ill-tempered.” acerbic acerbic A more formal synonym for sour is acerbic, which means “sour or astringent in taste.” Astringent has a variety of meanings, but when it comes to flavors, it means “harshly biting; caustic.” In other words, acerbic describes a highly acidic flavor. For example, citrus fruits like lemons or limes could be described as acerbic. In the search for alternatives to these words, you might wonder what the difference between alternate and alternative is. You can read more about them here. tart tart We have covered the flavors sweet, salty, and sour. The fourth flavor is bitter, which means “having a harsh, disagreeably acid taste.” Of course, sometimes a bitter flavor can be desirable—in moderation. A synonym for bitter (as well as sour, depending on the context) is tart, which means “sharp to the taste.” It may be easy to confuse the adjective tart for the noun form of the word, which means “a small pie filled with cooked fruit.” That’s right! You could have a tart tart, such as a small apple pie made with bitter green apples. pungent pungent A more sophisticated term for describing a bitter taste or smell is pungent, “sharply affecting the organs of taste or smell; biting; acrid.” Pungent is more likely to have a negative connotation than other synonyms for bitter. Pungent comes from the Latin pungere, meaning “to prick.” The word poignant, “keenly distressing to the feelings,” comes from this same Latin root. biting biting A less-formal, but still highly descriptive, synonym for bitter is biting. Biting means “nipping; smarting; keen.” A bitter food like baked kale or dark chocolate seems to bite at the taste buds; they have a biting sensation on the tongue. umami umami The fifth basic taste sensation is umami [ oo-mah-mee ], “a strong meaty taste imparted by glutamate and certain other amino acids.” As you may have guessed, the word umami comes from Japanese, where it means “savory quality, delicious taste.” Examples of foods with a strong umami flavor are mushrooms, shellfish, and green tea. tangy tangy A near-synonym for umami is tangy, which means “having a tang,” or a strong taste or flavor. The word tang comes from the Middle English tange, meaning “tongue of a snake.” Some foods that could be described as tangy are tamarind juice or tomato sauce. It is roughly equivalent to a sweet and sour flavor. appetizing appetizing If you don’t have a refined palate and can’t tell a sweet flavor from a sour one, you may want to simply describe your food as “delicious,” rather than describing how it tastes. An informal synonym for delicious is appetizing, which means “appearing to or stimulating the appetite; savory.” Savory means “pleasant or agreeable in taste or smell.” The word appetizing comes from the French appétissant. Think of your favorite food, and we’ll surely have a word for it. Take ice cream, for example! Learn the words to talk about this appetizing treat. luscious luscious A more sophisticated synonym for delicious is luscious, “highly pleasing to the taste or smell.” Luscious also has, well, saucy connotations. When it is applied to people, it can mean “arousing physical, or sexual desire.” For now, though, we will stick to luscious meals. scrumptious scrumptious The word scrumptious is one of the more cutesy and familiar synonyms for delicious. Scrumptious means “very pleasing, especially to the senses; delectable.” In British English, the word can be cutesied up (yes, even more) with the abbreviated form, scrummy. Take the quiz! If all these tasty words made you hungry, we don’t blame you. You can work up even more of an appetite by reviewing the word list of all these terms here. If you really want to have your fill, you can also challenge yourself with our quiz on food descriptors. Bon appétit! If you find yourself about to tuck into a fabulous feast, you’ll likely fill up with gratitude as well as good food. Here are some words to have ready to express your gratitude.