General English


  • Finely shredded white hearts of cabbage bound together with various dressings such as mayonnaise, soured cream, yoghurt, french dressing, possibly in combination, and with other possible additions such as nuts, grated carrots, chopped and vinegared onions, celery, apples, etc. A very popular salad item.


  • noun a salad of shredded white cabbage mixed with mayonnaise

Origin & History of “coleslaw”

Cole is an ancient and now little used English word for plants of the cabbage family, such as cabbage or rape (it comes ultimately from Latin caulis ‘cabbage’, whose underlying meaning was ‘hollow stem’ – see (cauliflower)). It was used in the partial translation of Dutch koolsla when that word was borrowed into English in the late 18th century. Kool, Dutch for ‘cabbage’, became cole, but sla presented more of a problem (it represents a phonetically reduced form of salade ‘salad’), and it was rendered variously as -slaugh (now defunct) and -slaw. (Interestingly enough, the earliest record of the word we have, from America in the 1790s – it was presumably borrowed from Dutch settlers – is in the form cold slaw, indicating that even then in some quarters English cole was not a sufficiently familiar word to be used for Dutch kool. Coldslaw is still heard, nowadays as a folk-etymological alteration of coleslaw.).