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Late Middle English, from Medieval Latin asafoetida, from Persian ازا / آزا(azâ, âzâ, mastic) + Latin foetida, feminine of foetidus (bad-smelling).


  • IPA(key): /ˌæsəˈfɛtɪdə/


asafoetida (usually uncountable, plural asafoetidas)

  1. A resinous gum from the stem and roots of Ferula species such as Ferula foetida and Ferula assa-foetida, having a strong, unpleasant smell, with culinary and medical uses. [from 14th c.]
    Synonyms: asant, hing, devil's dung
    • 1638, Thomas Herbert, Some Yeares Travels, II:
      Nigh Whormoot are Duzgun, Laztan-De, and other Townes, where is got the best Assa-Fætida through all the Orient: the tree is like our brier in height, the leaves resemble Fig leaves, the root the Radish: the vertue had need be much, it stincks so odiously.
    • 1771, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1st ed., Vol. II, p. 183:
      CHEWING-BALLS, a kind of balls made of aſafœtida, liver of antimony, bay-wood, juniper-wood, and pellitory of Spain; which being dried in the ſun, and wrapped in a linen-cloth, are tied to the bit of the bridle for the horſe to chew: they create an appetite; and it is ſaid, that balls of Venice treacle may be uſed in the ſame manner with good ſucceſs.
    • 1855, Sir Richard Burton, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah, Dover 1964, p. 54:
      half-a-dozen huge bread pills, dipped in a solution of aloes or cinnamon water, flavoured with assafœtida, which in the case of the dyspeptic rich often suffice [...].
    • 1936, Rollo Ahmed, The Black Art, London: Long, page 155:
      For black magic, assafœtida, garlic, dragon's blood, sulphur, and such-like vile-smelling concoctions were used.
    • 1993, Anthony Burgess, A Dead Man In Deptford:
      The letter she sent me stank of assafoetida or devil’s dung. I was charmed.