When I see or smell or think of something delicious, I feel a motivation to eat it. I may be hungry or I may be not hungry, it does not matter. Nor do I suffer from pathological polyphagia.

How to describe this kind of appetite in English?

  • 2
    What's wrong with appetite? Sep 9, 2016 at 11:19
  • @michael.hor257k As I know of, some other language(Chinese) uses distinct terms for the motivation to eat caused by starving, and for the motivation to eat caused by encountering delicious food. appetite does not seem to differentiate these. Sep 9, 2016 at 11:58
  • I believe appetite is closer to being motivated by some appetizer (or other appetizing stimulant) than by physical hunger. I am not sure there is a distinct term like the one you describe - except Pavlovian reflex, perhaps. Sep 9, 2016 at 12:07
  • 1
    @BenAveling "I wouldn't rush to describe appetite as a feeling." My dictionary describes it as a desire - and it defines desire as a strong feeling. Anyway, I am still not sure what your point is and how it differs from the one I made earlier. Sep 9, 2016 at 12:56
  • 1
    When I see or smell or see something delicious, I feel compelled to eat it. I have a compulsion to eat it.
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2018 at 22:34

4 Answers 4


A food craving - an intense desire to consume a specific food, and is different from normal hunger.

Consider this example:

I had a sudden craving for french fries, so I pulled into the nearest fast-food restaurant. (Merriam-Webster)

Craving french fries, for example, means you are hungry for french fries. However, you probably wouldn't have enough of an appetite to eat something else (like salad.)

  • to have a craving for something, yes. to crave something.
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2018 at 22:36

Gustatory: Related to or associated with eating or the sense of taste (Merriam-Webster online).

Strolling through the streets of Paris at dawn is a gustatory delight: the stimulating aroma of coffee mingles irresistibly with the smell of baking bread as local cafes and boulangeries spring to life in the City of Lights. Paris and its denizens are at breakfast.

  • 1
    This is not germane here, is it?
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2018 at 22:35

When I see or smell or think of something delicious, I feel [tempted]. I may be hungry or I may be not hungry, it does not matter. Nor do I suffer from pathological polyphagia.

  • Eve couldn't resist the temptation, she ate the apple.
  • I shouldn't, and I'm not even really hungry -- but pecan pralines are so tempting, I can't resist.

If you're British, peckish (which Merriam-Webster claims was first used in 1740) fits the bill.

British informal [predicative] Hungry.

  • ‘And if you get peckish there's a café, which uses organic produce from the farm's garden whenever possible, and a shop which sells organic vegetables, herbs, plants, honey and eggs.’
  • ‘Come lunch time today I found myself feeling really rather peckish but didn't fancy anything cooked.’

It's not full blown hunger, but it can be triggered by seeing a mouthwatering dish, or because lunch or dinner time is drawing near. You are more likely to eat a snack in order to keep these hunger pangs at bay.

In Italian we have "sentire un certo languorino", one Italian-English online dictionary suggests its English equivalent is: to get the munchies

1.1 (the munchies)
A sudden strong desire for food.
‘I bought a pork pie to stave off the munchies’

English Oxford Living Dictionaries

On the other hand, Wiktionary translates it as peckish

While I'm aware that the expression “the munchies” is often used in the cannabis culture, it is also used to express that insatiable desire for something sweet or savoury to fill the empty hole feeling we all experience at one time or another.

3. the munchies, Slang. hunger, especially a craving for sweets or snacks: suffering from the munchies.
Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.

  • "The munchies", in my experience, always refers to weed-fueled cravings. You can see this definition in UD.
    – Laurel
    Mar 27, 2018 at 1:18
  • @Laurel does "the muchies" always exclude feeling hungry just for the sake of hunger? Oxford and Dictionary.com seem to disagree with you and the UD.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 27, 2018 at 9:31

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