Assafoetida – Definition & Meaning

Assafoetida is a pungent spice commonly used in Indian cuisine. It is known for its strong aroma and flavor, which is often compared to that of garlic or onions. Despite its popularity in cooking, many people are still unfamiliar with the origins and meanings of assafoetida. In this article, we will explore the definitions, origins, and associations of this unique spice.


Assafoetida is a resinous gum derived from the roots of a perennial plant called Ferula assa-foetida. It is also known as hing in Hindi and Urdu, and devil’s dung in English. The spice is obtained by making incisions in the roots of the plant and collecting the exuded resin, which is then dried and ground into a powder.


Assafoetida has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine and cooking. Its origins can be traced back to ancient Persia, where it was known as “asa” (meaning resin) and “foetida” (meaning stinking). The spice was later introduced to India and other parts of Asia, where it became a staple ingredient in many regional cuisines.

Meaning in different dictionaries

The meaning of assafoetida varies depending on the dictionary. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, assafoetida is “a resinous gum obtained from the roots of various species of Ferula, used as a flavoring in Indian cookery and as a remedy for various ailments.” Merriam-Webster defines it as “a pungent resinous gum obtained from the roots of a plant of the genus Ferula and used especially in Indian and Iranian cooking as a condiment and medicine.”


Assafoetida is commonly associated with Indian cuisine, where it is used as a flavoring agent in curries, dal, and other dishes. It is also used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, respiratory problems, and menstrual cramps. In some cultures, assafoetida is believed to have spiritual and mystical properties, and is used in rituals and ceremonies.


Assafoetida is also known by several other names, including hing, devil’s dung, stinking gum, and food of the gods. In Indian languages, it is known as perungayam in Tamil, kayam in Malayalam, and inguva in Telugu.


As a spice, assafoetida does not have any antonyms. However, some people may dislike its strong aroma and flavor, and may prefer milder spices such as cumin or coriander.

The same root words

The root words of assafoetida are “asa” and “foetida”, which mean resin and stinking, respectively. These words are also found in other related terms, such as asafetida (an alternative spelling of assafoetida), ferula (the genus of plants that produce assafoetida), and fetid (having a strong and unpleasant odor).

Example Sentences

  1. The recipe called for a pinch of assafoetida to add flavor to the dish.
  2. Many traditional Indian remedies include assafoetida as a key ingredient.
  3. The strong smell of assafoetida can be off-putting to some people.
  4. Ferula assa-foetida is a plant species that is native to Iran and Afghanistan.
  5. Some people believe that assafoetida has mystical properties and use it in spiritual ceremonies.
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