What's the difference between these three words? If the general case is hard I'll give an example:

  • One points to the dish and says "If you like ____________ food then you should try this."

Can I use any of the them in the gap? would the meaning be the same?

  • @k1eran That's exactly the opposite question, as far as I can tell...
    – Catija
    Aug 16, 2016 at 15:44
  • @Catija I thought several of the answers to the q I linked to covers essentially the same points as here e.g. It's a genuine inadequacy in English vocabulary, with no simple fix: "Hot" is ambiguous"Spicy" is also ambiguous (certain kinds of cake, for example, are spicy but not hot)"Piquant" is not frequently used, so could seem pretentious, and chilli food doesn't really go here.
    – k1eran
    Aug 16, 2016 at 15:50
  • @k1eran You can't close a question based on answers... questions need to be closed based on the question being asked. Asking the difference between these words is not the same thing as asking how to say "hot" and imply temperature.
    – Catija
    Aug 16, 2016 at 15:51
  • What do dictionary definitions suggest? Aug 16, 2016 at 19:36

1 Answer 1

  • "Chilli" (or "chili" or "chile") wouldn't work there because it's a noun referring to a chili pepper or the dish called chili, and if they are pointing at a dish that is chili, they'd say 'If you like chili, ...' (without 'food').

  • "Hot" would work but it's a little ambiguous because it can also mean warm in temperature. In English, 'hot' can mean either high temperature (might burn your tongue) or extra spicy (would over power all other taste). Also, it would be strange to ask someone if they like food that is of high temperature (you'd say then preferably 'If you like food that is hot,...')

  • "Spicy" is the clearest choice because it can only mean one thing in that context, that the food has a lot of spice in it.

  • Except that not all spicy food is piquant food. Think about salsa that’s picante, for example. The problem is that piquant is in a different register from spicy or hot, a fancier word that risks confusion in many readers at the very point that it’s most critical that they not be confused by what you’re saying.
    – tchrist
    Aug 16, 2016 at 16:30

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