General English


  • One of the four fundamental tastes, sweet, sour, bitter and dry.


  • adjective one of the basic tastes, not bitter, sour or salt


  • adjective excellent, acceptable. A vogue term of approval among adolescents in the later 1990s.


  • noun a small piece of food made of sugar, eaten as a snack


  • used to describe a wine that contains a noticeable amount of residual sugar, which occurs when not all of the grape sugar has been converted to alcohol during fermentation or when grape concentrate has been added in the process called chaptalisation. A winemaker can allow fermentation to continue till there is no more natural sugar left in the wine or can stop fermentation early to create a wine with some residual sugars. The fermentation can be stopped by adding sulphur dioxide or by cooling the wine or, for fortified wine, by adding alcohol. Fermentation cannot usually continue when the alcohol level goes above approximately 16 per cent, because yeast cannot live in this environment, and some very sweet grapes contain so much natural sugar that even when the fermentation has finished naturally, when the alcohol level is too high for yeast to live, there is still plenty of residual sugar in the wine, producing sweet unfortified wines such as those from Sauternes, France.

Origin & History of “sweet”

Sweet is part of an ancient family of ‘sweet’-words that goes back to the Indo-European base *swād-. From this evolved Greek hēdús ‘sweet’ (and also hēdonḗ ‘pleasure’, source of English hedonism (19th c.)), Latin suāvis ‘sweet, pleasant’ (source of English suave) and suādēre ‘advise’ (source of English dissuade and persuade), and Sanskrit svādús ‘pleasant-tasting’. Its Germanic descendant was *swōtja-, which evolved into German süss, Dutch zoot, Swedish söt, Danish sød, and English sweet. The use of the noun sweet for a ‘piece of confectionery’ (presumably short for sweetmeat (15th c.)) dates from the mid-19th century.