1. A naturally abundant nutrient carbohydrate, (C6H10O5)n, found chiefly in the seeds, fruits, tubers, roots, and stem pith of plants, notably in corn, potatoes, wheat, and rice, and varying widely in appearance according to source but commonly prepared as a white amorphous tasteless powder.
2. Any of various substances, such as natural starch, used to stiffen cloth, as in laundering.
3. starches Foods having a high content of starch, as rice, breads, and potatoes.
a. Stiff behavior: "Dobbs, the butler ... isn't as stiff as he used to be; Ann, my brother's new wife, has loosened up his starch a bit" (Jennifer St. Giles).
b. Vigor; mettle: "Business travel can take the starch out of the most self-assured corporate titan" (Lisa Faye Kaplan).
tr.v. starched, starch·ing, starch·es
To stiffen with starch.
[Middle English starche, substance used to stiffen cloth (sense uncertain), from sterchen, to stiffen, from Old English *stercan; see ster-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. 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.