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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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A Word A Day — lagniappe

Good afternoon, Netizens...,

December 18, 2012

Word of the Day

  • lagniappe
  • audio pronunciation
  • \LAN-yap\


: a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase; broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure

Diners will no doubt be pleasantly surprised that such a fine champagne is served with the special holiday menu's first course as lagniappe.

"That type of service was common in the country stores and small businesses I dealt with when growing up. At a little grocery and feed store near my home, I even got lagniappe dropped from the candy counter into my bag as a boy." — From an article by Bob Anderson in The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), November 7, 2012


"We picked up one excellent word," wrote Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi (1883), "a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word—'lagniappe'.... It is Spanish—so they said." Twain encapsulates the history of "lagniappe" quite nicely. English speakers learned the word from French-speaking Louisianians, but they in turn had adapted it from the American Spanish word "la ñapa." Twain went on to describe how New Orleanians completed shop transactions by saying "Give me something for lagniappe," to which the shopkeeper would respond with "a bit of liquorice-root, ... a cheap cigar or a spool of thread." It took a while for "lagniappe" to catch on throughout the country, but by the mid-20th century, New Yorkers and New Orleanians alike were familiar with this "excellent word."

Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.