What word other than hot can I use to distinguish hot as in temperature from hot as in very spicy food?

Especially in connection with food, the word hot is very ambiguous (well, unless it's chili-spiced ice cream, I suppose).

Many other languages have a distinction and use separate words. What about English?

Clarification: I know that I can use the word spicy, I'm more interested in avoiding the ambiguity when using the word hot (meaning temperature). Perhaps that was unclear.

  • 1
    I'm confused. Your original title seemed to make it clear you were looking for synonyms for spicy. Jun 2, 2011 at 2:47
  • +1 Good question in my book. I've taken to saying the awkward "it is temperature hot".
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 2, 2011 at 11:50
  • @Callithumpian: sorry for the confusion. I was looking for synonyms with both meanings. And the answers coming in were all in just one direction then. Jun 2, 2011 at 13:15

6 Answers 6


Right. If you say in English that a food is "hot," that can refer to it's spiciness or its prepared temperature.

If you want to be clear about the spiciness, you can say it is "piquant," or "fiery." Otherwise, you can develop a more elaborate description for clarification, e.g., "that was so hot it almost blew my head off!"

  • Thank you. Is there an alternative for the opposite direction? See my clarification in the question. When using "hot" for the temperature how can I convey that meaning without the ambiguity? Jun 2, 2011 at 1:05

Absent any context that indicates spiciness, my default interpretation of "hot" is temperature. But I'm just one person. If you want to avoid all ambiguity, you're pretty much stuck using "warm" or "scalding" or "boiling" or "toasty" or "just out of the oven" or some other synonym of hot. Of those, warm is probably the most all-purpose word, and least likely to be misinterpreted. (The other option is to include an adverb that makes it clear which meaning of hot you intended. For example, piping hot.)


Here are a few:

  • boiling
  • roasting
  • sizzling
  • steaming

If peppers are the source of spiciness, peppery is another possibility:

strongly flavored with pepper or other hot spices

Spicy food is also often said to have a kick.


Why not just say it's "spicy"? What else are you trying to convey?

  • Thanks. I'm trying to avoid the ambiguity when using "hot" (for temperature). Tried to clarify it in the question. Jun 2, 2011 at 1:02
  • Ah, misunderstood the original question. I think boehj has a good answer for what you're asking. Jun 2, 2011 at 14:13

A common way of stating high temperature on any day would be:

It's very warm.

Spicy food is just "spicy"

  • But spicy does not necessarily imply that it's fiery (as another person suggested to use). Jul 28, 2016 at 8:06

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