a. A perennial climbing vine (Piper nigrum) native to India, widely cultivated for its long slender spikes of small fruit.
b. A pungent black or white spice produced from the dried fruit of this plant, used as a condiment.
2. Any of several other plants of the genus Piper, such as cubeb, betel, and kava.
a. Any of several tropical American, cultivated varieties of capsicum, having podlike, many-seeded, fruit.
b. The podlike fruit of any of these plants, varying in size, shape, color, and degree of pungency, with the milder types including the bell pepper and pimiento, and the more pungent types including the habanero.
4. Any of various condiments made from the more pungent varieties of capsicum, such as cayenne pepper, tabasco pepper, and chili. Also called hot pepper.
5. Any of various other plants producing pungent fruits, such as the Szechuan pepper.
6. Baseball A warm-up exercise in which players standing a short distance from a batter field the ball and toss it to the batter, who hits each toss back to the fielders. Also called pepper game.
tr.v. pep·pered, pep·per·ing, pep·pers
1. To season or sprinkle with pepper.
a. To sprinkle liberally; scatter: peppered the confetti over the street.
b. To strew something over: "Large splinters and chunks of timber peppered the ground" (John Guy).
3. To strike with small missiles or gunfire. See Synonyms at barrage2.
4. To beset repeatedly, as with questions or requests.
5. To distribute certain features, such as witty remarks or quotations, throughout (a discourse).
[Middle English peper, from Old English pipor, from Latin piper, long pepper, black pepper, from Greek peperi, of Indic origin; akin to Prakrit pipparī, long pepper, from Sanskrit pippalī, from pippalam, berry, fruit of the pipal tree, of unknown origin.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 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.