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


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".

  • Ok, now explain "sweetbread" meaning meat o_O Aug 27 '11 at 7:12
  • @Karl Knechtel One of the meanings of bread is "a piece or morsel of food."
    – apaderno
    Aug 27 '11 at 12:27
  • @kiamlaluno and brede means "roasted meat" while Old English bræd means "meat" or "flesh",
    – Jon Hanna
    Aug 23 '17 at 20:30
  • My grandmother would make "mincemeat pie" which confused us (her grandchildren) when we were little, because it had no meat in it...
    – GEdgar
    Aug 23 '17 at 21:30
  • @GEdgar a seasonal classic, though still (unless matters changed recently) illegal to eat around late December under laws passed during the Interregnum banning many Christmas traditions and later ignored rather than repealed.
    – Jon Hanna
    Sep 5 '17 at 13:10

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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