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date: 17 August 2017


The Diner’s Dictionary

John Ayto


The small bluish-black, sharply sour fruit of the blackthorn, a tree of the same genus as plums and damsons. Its main culinary use is to flavour sloe gin, a liqueur made by steeping the fruit in gin (the term is first recorded in 1895). The word sloe is descended from Old English slāh, which probably came from the same ancient Indo-European root as livid (which originally meant ‘blackish-blue’), and Serbo-Croat šljiva ‘plum’ (source of English slivovitz).

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