Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've never seen the word grounds (meaning sediment/dregs; definition 12 only) used to describe anything other than coffee; are there any other usages of grounds of that meaning, or has it become a coffee-word?

12. grounds, dregs or sediment: coffee grounds.

share|improve this question
    
I did. I found it difficult to accept a self-reported Pensyltuckian who reads a gabillion real pages a year never hears the word "grounds" except for coffee. I resisted the urge to say that trolls lived under the grounds, but since you clarified, I removed the downvote and gave you back your 2 points ;). –  horatio Sep 20 '11 at 17:38
    
Ad hominem, and I can't strike back? ;) BTW, it's not the rep I'm worried about - it's the reputation. Anyway, I hope I don't come across as a Penselturkial troll now! –  Daniel Sep 20 '11 at 17:40
    
I found an entry for "tobacco grounds", but only on the Urban Dictionary entry for "Hillbilly Hotpocket". Ick. I'm not providing a link, and I highly suggest you just trust me on this one. –  T.E.D. Sep 20 '11 at 17:54
2  
The OED has quotations that associate it with beer and tea, but those are all pre-1900. –  Cerberus Sep 20 '11 at 18:57
    
I immediately thought of Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach" - "The grounds are excellent", but that really doesn't address this question... –  mickeyf Sep 20 '11 at 19:25
show 2 more comments

closed as general reference by Monica Cellio, JSBձոգչ, Thursagen, kiamlaluno, simchona Sep 21 '11 at 1:15

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (Walter W. Skeat, 1910) says grounds comes not from having being ground, but from being left over at the bottom.

grounds, dregs. (E.) So called from being at the bottom. Cf. Gael. grunndas, lees, from grunnd, bottom., ground; Irish gruntas, dregs, from grunnt, the bottom.

An 1825 patent talks of:

an improved apparatus for the purpose of beneficially separating the infusion of tea or coffee from the grounds or dregs.

A French and English dictionary (Randle Cotgrave, 1673) translates:

Fondrilles: The grounds, lees; or dregs of liquor.

There are definitions of sediment and faeces that give grounds as a synonym.

The justice of the peace, and parish officer, Volume 2 (Richard Burn, 1814):

Penalty on brewer receiving stale beer grounds, or mixing with any liquor except malt and hops, 100l.

Beer and ale grounds were not uncommon in recipes, laws for unscrupulous landlords, instructions for making files, as an ingredient for sloughing ulcer treatments, medical comparisons with vomit.

But nowadays, it is chiefly applied to coffee:

Ngrams

share|improve this answer
add comment

Nay, it is not a coffee word only; behold: Chicory Grounds!

In my opinion, chicory is a coffee substitute, so "grounds" remains a "coffee word" still.

share|improve this answer
2  
If you google "chicory grounds", you get 228 results, though, as opposed to the 2140000 for "coffee grounds". –  Daniel Sep 20 '11 at 17:53
3  
I actually offered that up as a semi-serious answer. In my opinion, chicory is a coffee substitute, so "grounds" remains a "coffee word" still. –  JeffSahol Sep 20 '11 at 17:56
    
@drɱ65: Obviously coffee is by far the most common, and as Jeff says, chicory is basically a poor man's coffee anyway. But "cocoa grounds", for example, gets over 1100 hits on Google, and they nearly all seem to be for the "dregs" meaning. The point is, it's not only coffee, so Jeff is right (and gets a brownie point from me! :) –  FumbleFingers Sep 20 '11 at 20:55
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.