1. The small black pungent seeds of an annual herb (Nigella sativa) of the buttercup family native to southwest Asia, used as a seasoning in southern and western Asian cuisines and for medicinal purposes. Also called nigella.
2. The dark brown, crescent-shaped seeds of an herb (Bunium persicum) of the parsley family native to southwest Asia, used as a seasoning in southern and western Asian cuisines.
[Sense 2, translation of Hindi kālā jīrā (kālā, black + jīrā, cumin) and Urdu kālā zīra (kālā, black + zīra, cumin).]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.