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Amaranth seeds (sense 5), which are used for culinary purposes
Skull-shaped candies made with amaranth (sense 5) and honey for a Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration in Mexico

Borrowed from French amarante, or directly from its etymon Latin amarantus (the word ending influenced by plant names derived from Ancient Greek ἄνθος (ánthos, a bloom, blossom, flower)), from Ancient Greek ἀμάραντος (amárantos, eternal, undying, unfading, unwilting; amaranth; everlasting flower) (modern Greek αμάραντος (amárantos)), from ᾰ̓- (a-, the alpha privativum, a prefix forming words having a sense opposite to the word or stem to which it is attached) + μαραίνω (maraínō, to shrivel, wither)[1] + -τος (-tos, suffix forming adjectives).



amaranth (countable and uncountable, plural amaranths)

  1. (dated, poetic) An imaginary flower that does not wither.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book III”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC, lines 351–357:
      With ſolemn adoration down they [the angels] caſt / Thir Crowns inwove with Amarant and Gold; / Immortal Amarant, a Flour which once / In Paradiſe, faſt by the Tree of Life / Began to bloom, but ſoon for mans offence / To Heav'n remov'd where firſt it grew, there grows, / And flours aloft ſhading the Fount of Life, []
    • 1760, [James] Scott, Heaven: A Vision, Cambridge: Printed by J. Bentham, printer to the University, for W. Thurlbourn & J. Woodyer;  [], →OCLC, stanza VII, page 8:
      Thouſands of flow'rs their ſilken webs unfold, / Amarants, immortal amarants ariſe, / Theſe beaming bright with vegetable gold, / And theſe with azure, theſe with Tyrian dyes; []
    • 1832 December (indicated as 1833), Alfred Tennyson, “The Lotos-Eaters”, in Poems, London: Edward Moxon, [], →OCLC, page 114:
      Or, propt on beds of amaranth and moly, / How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly,)
    • 1853, S[arah] S. Smith, “Little Henry. Inscribed to His Father, Bp H. Dox, of Lockport.”, in Amaranth Blooms: A Collection of Embodied Poetical Thoughts, Utica, N.Y.: J. W. Fuller & Co.; press of D. Bennett, →OCLC, page 120:
      The Amaranth’s snowy blossoms, stormwoven, / Shed their soft lustre, o’er thy forehead fair! / By seraph hands the fadeless wreath was woven, / And twined amid thy sunny locks of hair.
  2. Any of various herbs of the genus Amaranthus.
    Synonyms: amaranthus, pigweed
    • 1733, Philip Miller, “AMARANTHUS, or AMARANTUS”, in The Gardeners Dictionary: [], 2nd edition, volume I, London: [] C[harles] Rivington, [], →OCLC, column 1:
      In the Beginning of September, the Amaranths will have perfected their Seeds, ſo that you muſt make Choice of the largeſt, moſt beautiful, and beſt branching Plants of each Kind for Seed; []
    • 1848 December, “Art. III. Exhibitions of Horicultural Societies.”, in The Magazine of Horticulture, Botany, and All Useful Discoveries and Improvements in Rural Affairs, volume XIV, number XII, Boston, Mass.: Hovey and Co., →OCLC, page 556:
      Floral Decorations. [] Two pyramids of flowers, amaranths, asters, &c. A shield, or circular design, the ground of moss, ornamented with dahlias and globe amaranths.
    • 1905 January 19, Hetta L. H. Ward, “To-day”, in Henry Chandler Bowen, editor, The Independent, volume LVIII, number 2929, New York, N.Y.: The Independent, [], →OCLC, page 130, column 2:
      To-morrow, oh, to-morrow, / In pastures green, where living waters swell, / And feed that fruitful tree, / We'll find the amaranth and asphodel, / There Mary's peerless lilies blossom well.
    • 1924, “[Reports from Ports] Hangchow”, in Decennial Reports on the Trade, Industries, etc., of the Ports Open to Foreign Commerce, and on the Condition and Development of the Treaty Port Provinces. 1912–21. Fourth Issue. [] (China. The Maritime Customs. I.—Statistical Series; no. 6), volumes II (Southern and Frontier Ports), Shanghai: Published at the Statistical Department of the Inspector General of Customs; sold by Kelly & Walsh, Limited [et al.], →OCLC, page 86:
      [] Chrysanthemum coronarium, L. (hao-ts‘ai (), and an amaranth (Amarantus gangeticus, L.), hsien-ts‘ai (莧菜), are cultivated for the sake of their leaves.
    • 1934, F[rancis] Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night: A Romance, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, →OCLC; republished as chapter VI, in Malcolm Cowley, editor, Tender is the Night: A Romance [...] With the Author’s Final Revisions, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951, →OCLC, book II (Rosemary’s Angle: 1919–1925), page 79:
      [A]s she stood by the grilled entrance waiting for an answer to the message on her card, she might have been looking into Hollywood. The bizarre débris of some recent picture, a decayed street scene in India, a great cardboard whale, a monstrous tree bearing cherries large as basketballs, bloomed there by exotic dispensation, autochthonous as the pale amaranth, mimosa, cork oak, or dwarfed pine.
    • 1989, Heinz Brücher, “Farinaceous Plants”, in Useful Plants of Neotropical Origin and Their Wild Relatives, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, →DOI, →ISBN, section 1 (Amaranthus spp.), page 54:
      Such vegetable amarants have a fair content of protein and are rich in Vitamins A and C, as well as in minerals; but they contain also slight amounts of anti-nutritional factors, especially oxalates and nitrates. These leaf-producing amarants are adapted to many different ecological environments.
    • 2010 November, “Appendix C: Concern Response Report [NPS Response to Comments on the Draft Plan/EIS]”, in Cape Hatteras National Seashore Off-road Vehicle Management Plan Final Environmental Impact Statement (NPS FES 10-55), volume 2, [Washington, D.C.]: National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, →OCLC, page C-223:
      While seabeach amaranth is a fugitive annual, its habitat requirements are known; it is found on sandy ocean beaches, where its primary habitat consists of overwash flats at accreting ends of islands and the sparsely vegetated zone between the high-tide line and the toe of the primary dune on non-eroding beaches. This narrow habitat niche for seabeach amaranth is bounded by its relative intolerance of flooding in lower beach settings and competition with other plants in upper beach and dune settings.
  3. The characteristic purplish-red colour of the flowers or leaves of these plants.
    • 1735, “COLOURS us’d in DYING”, in Dictionarium Polygraphicum: Or, The Whole Body of Arts Regularly Digested. [], volume I, London: Printed for C. Hitch and C. Davis [], and S. Austen [], →OCLC:
      [F]rom the mixture of blue and ſcarlet are form'd amaranth, violet, and panſy; from the ſame mixture of blue and crimſon red are form'd the columbine or dove Colour, purple, crimſon, amaranth, panſy and crimſon violet.
    • 1866 February 1, “Postage-stamp Paper & Watermarks”, in The Stamp-collector’s Magazine, volume IV, London: E. Marlborough & Co., []; Bath, Somerset: Alfred Smith & Co., [], →OCLC, page 18, column 1:
      Almost all the specimens [of stamps] with this watermark are perforated. They are—the amaranth penny with two florets and two letters; the same with four letters, whatever the value of the minute figure at the sides; and the current penny with four letters, deep amaranth colour.
    • 1872 June, “Chemicals and Dye Wares. VI.”, in The Chemical Review: A Monthly Journal [], volume I, number 10, London: The Chemical Review Office, [], →OCLC, page 155, column 2:
      Cotton stuff mordanted with alumina alone takes an amaranth, red or violet rose red colour. [] Amaranth, red, bluish rose, poppy, and scarlet are the colours prepared by the dyer with ordinary cochineal. Ammoniacal cochineal gives amaranth colours, and is employed in combination with many other colours.
    • 2016, Kassia St Clair, “Amaranth”, in The Secret Lives of Colour, London: John Murray, →ISBN:
      As a colour, too, amaranth has gone to a decline. It was well enough known in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to make it into both dictionaries and fashion reports. [] Time, sadly, has given the lie to Aesop: the rose’s beauty is as beloved as ever, while amaranth’s fortunes have withered.
  4. (chemistry) A red to purple azo dye used as a biological stain, and in some countries in cosmetics and as a food colouring.
    Synonym: E123
    • 1976 January 29, “US Bans Commonest Red Food Colour”, in Bernard Dixon, editor, New Scientist, volume 69, number 985, London: New Science Publications, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 234, column 1:
      Amaranth, the most common red food colour in both the US and UK, was banned last week in the US after a study suggested that it caused cancer in rats. [] The situation is confused, however, because the test rats were mixed up with the controls in the US tests, and because some tests have indicated hazards while similar tests show the dye to be safe. In April 1975, the joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) gave amaranth temporary approval through 1978.
    • 2015, J. König, “Food Colour Additives of Synthetic Origin”, in Michael J. Scotter, editor, Colour Additives for Foods and Beverages (Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition; no. 279), Amsterdam: Elsevier; Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Woodhead Publishing, →ISBN, part 1 (Development and Regulatory Issues for Food Colourings), section 2.2.4 (Amaranth), page 41:
      Amaranth is a red azo-dye with the chemical name trisodium 2-hydroxyl-1-(4-sulfonato-1-naphthylazo)naphthalene-3,6-disulfonate [] . Amaranth appears to be relatively unstable in solution and in processed food. Biscuits containing Amaranth showed a loss of 39–45% promoted by the use of baking soda, sucrose, and dextrose. The degradation of Amaranth may lead to the presence of naphthenic acid equivalent to the loss of Amaranth.
  5. (cooking) The seed of these plants, used as a cereal.
    • 2016, Kassia St Clair, “Amaranth”, in The Secret Lives of Colour, London: John Murray, →ISBN:
      They [the Aztecs] considered the plant sacred and it played a key role in many rituals. The Catholic Spaniards were particularly disturbed by the practice of mixing a little blood from human sacrifices into amaranth dough, baking it into cakes which were then broken up and eaten by the faithful. [] In the nineteenth century there were reports of rosaries being made out of the stuff, and popped amaranth, mixed with honey, is still used to make a sweet called alegria ('happiness') in Mexico.

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  1. ^ Compare “amarant(h), n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1884; “amaranth, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

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