General English


  • noun food made from cow’s milk curds


  • A solid derivative of milk made by coagulating most of the protein matter (casein) in the milk into curds and draining off the remaining watery constituents of the milk (whey). The processing combines a variety of the following processes: separating or adding cream, souring the milk with a lactobacillus, heating or boiling it, coagulating the protein content with rennet or other coagulant, breaking up the curd and draining off the whey, salting the curd, heating the curd, milling the curd, adding cultures of microorganisms, pressing the curd to a paste, needling the paste and maturing it. The type of cheese depends on the source of the milk, the treatment, the amount of water removed from the curd, the butterfat left in the curd, the microorganisms that grow in it or on the surface and the length of time and the conditions under which it matures. Cheese is a major source of protein and fat for humans.


  • an important person. This is a shortened version of the colloquial ‘big cheese’.
  • something or someone unpleasant or unsavoury, particularly distasteful bodily secretions. From the smell and texture of ripe cheese.
  • another spelling and/or pronunciation of chiz!
  • a Dutch person. A humorous or derogatory term heard in one form or another (‘cheese-head’ or ‘John Cheese’ are alternatives) since the 19th century.
  • noun one’s partner or one’s wife.

Origin & History of “cheese”

Cheese is of Latin origin, but was borrowed into the west Germanic languages in prehistoric times, producing German kāse and Dutch kaas as well as cheese. The Latin word was cāseus (source also of Spanish queso ‘cheese’), whose possible distant relative Sanskrit kvathati ‘he boils’ suggests an underlying idea of froth or bubbles in the milk from which the cheese is made.