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This has always confused me. Dictionary.com doesn't help at all. Candy and meat just don't go together that well.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The key is that meat used to just mean "food". The first entry under meat at Merriam-Webster has exactly that definition, though of course the primary sense of meat today is definition #2, which specifically refers to animal flesh. However, the older, broader sense of "meat" still sticks around here and there, such as the practice of referring to the edible part of a nut as the "meat", and in compounds such as "sweetmeat".

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Ok, now explain "sweetbread" meaning meat o_O –  Karl Knechtel Aug 27 '11 at 7:12
    
@Karl Knechtel One of the meanings of bread is "a piece or morsel of food." –  kiamlaluno Aug 27 '11 at 12:27

The OED reports the following definitions for meat (I report the first two):

  1. Food; nourishment for people or animals; especially solid food, as opposite to drink. Now archaic and dialectal. OE.

    S. Johnson: The horses could not travel all day without rest or meat.
    Shelley: He had… meat and drink enough.
    Proverb: One man's meat is another man's poison.

  2. A kind of food, an article of food. Obsolete except in sweetmeat. OE.

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