Definition: Meat

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From Middle English mete, from Old English mete (food), from Proto-West Germanic *mati, from Proto-Germanic *matiz (food), from Proto-Indo-European *mehβ‚‚d- (to drip, ooze; grease, fat). Cognate with West Frisian mete, Old Saxon meti, Old High German maz (food), Icelandic matur, Swedish mat, Gothic πŒΌπŒ°π„πƒ or mats. A -ja- derivation from the same base is found in Middle Dutch and Middle Low German met (lean pork), from which Dutch met (minced pork) and German Mett (minced meat) derive, respectively. Compare also Old Irish mess (animal feed) and Welsh mes (acorns), English mast (fodder for swine and other animals), which are probably from the same root.


meat (countable and uncountable, plural meats)

  1. (uncountable) The flesh (muscle tissue) of an animal used as food.
    A large portion of domestic meat production comes from animals raised on factory farms.
  2. (countable) A type of meat, by anatomic position and provenance.
    The butchery's profit rate on various meats varies greatly.
  3. (uncountable) Any relatively thick, solid part of a fruit, nut, etc.

Usage notes

The meaning "flesh of an animal used as food" is often understood to exclude fish and other seafood. For example, the rules for abstaining from meat in the Roman Catholic Church do not extend to fish; likewise, the separation of meat from dairy under Jewish dietary laws does not extend to fish. Similarly, when "meat" is being used in the context of the culinary arts or nutrition science, seafood is classified as a separate food category. This could be why some people who self-identify as vegetarians also eat fish (although the precise term for such a person is pescetarian). Traditionally, this sense of the word meat sometimes even excluded poultry, but this aspect has become outdated.

Derived terms

  • ground meat
  • lunch meat
  • meatball
  • meat-eater
  • meat grinder
  • meat loaf
  • meat market
  • meat pie
  • minced meat
  • red meat
  • white meat


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