oyster

Definitions

General English

Food

  • A seawater bivalve of the genera Ostrea and Crassostrea and the species Saccostrea commercialis, once the food of the poor but now a gourmet delicacy. May be wild or farmed, sold alive or in dried or other preserved form. Since they are static feeders, they are influenced by sea conditions and hence known by the name of a district, e.g. Whitstable and Colchester in the UK, Galway in Ireland, belon and Armoricaine in France. Not at their best when spawning, hence traditionally eaten in the Northern Hemisphere in months with an ‘R’ in them, i.e. September to April.
  • A prized small muscle in poultry which sits in an indentation in the carcass just in front of where the thigh bone is attached

Slang

  • noun a shoplifter. Recorded in 1999 among petty criminals in London, the word may be a cockney pronunciation of ‘hoister’.

Travel

  • noun a shellfish, with two rough, roundish shells

Origin & History of “oyster”

The Greek word for ‘oyster’ was óstreon – etymologically an allusion to its shell. It came from a prehistoric Indo-European base *ost- denoting ‘bone’, which also produced Greek ostéon ‘bone’ (source of the English prefix osteo-), ostakós ‘crustacean’, and óstrakon ‘shell, piece of broken pottery’ (source of English ostracism). Óstreon passed into Latin as ostrea, and from there came by way of Old French oistre into English as oyster.
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