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I am a foreigner and now I am in America. I always use the word delicious whenever I like food. For example:

This meat is so delicious!

But one of my friends, who is not a native speaker, once told me that Americans rarely use delicious. The more frequent expressions would be “This meat is good” or “This meat is yummy.”

Is delicious more of a British English word than an American one?

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I can't speak to relative frequency as compared to British English, but as a native speaker of American English I say and hear 'delicious' to describe food all the time. –  Curtis H. Jul 25 '14 at 21:23
It's a good question, so I can't downvote it -- but it's based on an erroneous assertion, so I keep being tempted to do so. –  keshlam Jul 26 '14 at 1:53
Apart from the question of frequency, keep in mind that "yummy" is VERY informal. When in doubt, I'd recommend using "delicious" or "good". –  Mr Lister Jul 26 '14 at 14:00
No, delicious is not British English rather than American. If you are using delicious every time you merely like the taste of something, then you are watering the term down considerably. It should only be used when you need an absolute superlative. –  tchrist Jul 26 '14 at 15:50
I think you might be misunderstanding your friend's meaning. It's not that it's rare, exactly, but you wouldn't call every thing that is good or tasty "delicious," just like you wouldn't call every movie you enjoyed "spectacular." –  Casey Jul 27 '14 at 3:41

3 Answers 3

up vote 23 down vote accepted

In my experience as an American:

We do use the word delicious fairly often. It is not at all unusual or strange.

Its use compared to the more general words "good" and "great" is dependent on context.

For example, if my friend asked me "how's the food?" and I enjoyed the food, I'd more likely use "it's good!" or "it's great!" and reserve "it's delicious!" only for when it's exceptionally good. And this is mostly the case, that "delicious" is simply "more good" or "very good." A similar word would be "scrumptious." It's used by many, but it's just less usual because it implies that the food is unusually good.

However, if nobody prompted me, and I simply want to proclaim that the food I'm eating is good, I'd be more tempted to use the word "delicious" because it's specific to food, so it's more easily understood what I'm talking about.

As for "yummy," "tasty," and other such specific words... it's hard to say if they're common. I rarely hear "yummy" but I hear and say "tasty" quite often. Definitely more so than "delicious."

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+1 You stated my perspective perfectly. Delicious is reserved for the most delectable foods. The word "yummy" has a juvenile or immature connotation for me as a native American English speaker in the Northeast US. –  Lumberjack Jul 26 '14 at 0:28
@Lumberjack As an Englishman, any word ending in -ummy sounds juvenile. (The exception being the type of human that has undergone the mummification process). –  Pharap Jul 27 '14 at 7:27
It's really the same here. The only -ummy word I use is 'tummy' because I find 'abdomen' isn't specific enough and 'stomach' is way too specific when I want to say that my tummy hurts. –  George Pompidou Jul 28 '14 at 5:19
Dummy? Gin Rummy? The gears are all 'gummy'? Let's not get too chummy? (not juvenile, just mostly pretty informal) –  Mitch Apr 29 at 19:16

I do not often use delicious myself, but neither do I consider it unusual or "foreign" in any way.

It may not be that popular in your friend's circles, but the Corpus of Contemporary American English has twice as many results for delicious as it does for tasty and yummy combined. The relative numbers are not very different from those in the British National Corpus (though yummy is much less common in the latter). It does have an extra syllable, which has probably contributed to the use of delish.

There are many ways to approve of the taste of a food or meal; delicious is, if anything, so generic and unspecific that it is interchangeable with saying something tastes good. So in advertising, food journalism, and the like it is true that delicious may be unfavored compared to more colorful words like delectable or ambrosial or scrumptious or toothsome.

As if we Americans needed any more encouragement to eat.

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Regarding the encouragement to eat comment: hehehe. –  George Pompidou Jul 25 '14 at 21:55
On the other hand, occurrences of anorexia nervosa are higher in the US than in non-Western countries. –  Mr Lister Jul 26 '14 at 14:21
We get business from people having medical problems. –  George Pompidou Jul 26 '14 at 19:30
I think you're missing the unsaid point in the OP, and I'm familiar with this because my wife is Korean and kept using "delicious" in conversation when she meant "tasty" (and saying things that sounded strange to my ear, like "this isn't very delicious"). "Delicious" is very strong praise -- "this is delicious" is more akin to "this is fantastic" than "this tastes good." A lot of foreigners miss this and use it the wrong way. –  Casey Jul 27 '14 at 3:39
There may be a generational aspect to this as well. Children are more likely to say, 'yummy' than adults in my experience - and vice-versa. –  chasly from UK Sep 16 at 16:17

If I may submit a couple of Ngrams for comparison.

Corpus: British English

Corpus: American English

I was not surprised to see that the usage of the word 'delicious' more or less follows the same trend between both lexicons corpora. I was a little surprised to see that the term is slightly more popular in American usage than across the pond.

I cannot speak for the usage of any term in Great Britain, but I can say that in my circles, 'delicious' sees frequent usage. Yummy for me is more for when I am trying to convince my 1-yo son to eat his peas.

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Thank you for providing corpus evidence! (Btw, Lexicon isn't the right term for this. A lexicon is essentially a dictionary. Corpus is the appropriate word.) –  curiousdannii Jul 26 '14 at 5:56
Edited. Thanks for the correction! I guess my brain at 1:00 am doesn't exactly fire on cylinders. :/ –  sputnick Jul 26 '14 at 15:36

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