cu·min (kymĭn, k-, kŭmĭn)
a. An annual Mediterranean herb (Cuminum cyminum) in the parsley family, having finely divided leaves and clusters of small white or pink flowers.
b. The seedlike fruit of this plant used whole or ground for seasoning, as in curry and chili powders.
2. Black cumin.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin cumīnum, from Greek kumīnon, probably of Semitic origin; see kmn in Semitic roots.]
Usage Note: Historically, cumin was pronounced (kŭmĭn), where the first syllable is like the word come. However, in our 2012 survey, only 15 percent of the Usage Panel found this pronunciation acceptable and less than 2 percent remarked that it was their preferred pronunciation, suggesting that the traditional form is being supplanted by (kymĭn) and (kmĭn), where the first syllable is like the word cue or coo.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.