General English


  • The name given to any sweet or savoury liquid which is converted to a solid with a small amount of a gelling agent such as gelatine or agar agar
  • Jam


  • noun a semi-solid substance, especially a type of sweet food made of gelatine, water and fruit flavouring, etc.
  • noun a type of preserve made of fruit juice boiled with sugar
  • noun a sweet preserve, made with fruit and sugar

Origin & History of “jelly”

The central idea of ‘coagulation’ takes us back to the ultimate source of jelly, the Latin verb gelāre ‘freeze’ (which also gave English congeal (14th c.)). Its feminine past participle gelāta was used in vulgar Latin for a substance solidified out of a liquid, and this passed into Old French as gelee, meaning both ‘frost’ and ‘jelly’ – whence the English word. (Culinarily, jelly at first denoted a savoury substance, made from gelatinous parts of animals; it was not really until the early 19th century that the ancestors of modern fruit jellies began to catch on in a big way.)

The Italian descendant of gelāta was gelata. From it was formed a diminutive, gelatina, which English acquired via French as gelatine (19th c.). Gel (19th c.) is an abbreviation of it.