General English

General Science

  • noun a substance made from vegetable fat, which is used instead of butter


  • feminine A butter substitute made by hydrogenating liquid vegetable and deodorized fish oils to give a fat solid at room temperature. Once thought to be healthier than butter due to its lower proportion of saturated fat. Unfortunately the chemical processes produce fats which do not occur in nature (trans- as opposed to cis- forms) which, although they do appear in butter at a lower concentration, may be deleterious to health in some as yet unknown way. One of the more successful examples of persuading the public to substitute a factory product for a farm-produced equivalent.


  • noun a mixture of animal or vegetable fat which is used instead of butter

Origin & History of “margarine”

Margarine was invented in 1869 by the French food technologist Hippolyte Mège-Mouries. Its name was based on margaric acid, a term coined by the French biochemist Michel-Eugène Chevreul for a fatty acid which he believed to be one of the constituents of animal fats (the earliest margarine was made from clarified beef fat). He derived it from Greek margarítēs ‘pearl’ (source also of English marguerite (19th c.), and of the names Margaret and Margot), an allusion to the pearly lustre of the acid crystals. The abbreviation marge dates from the 1920s.