AskDefine | Define caviar

Dictionary Definition

caviar n : salted roe of sturgeon or other large fish; usually served as an hors d'oeuvre [syn: caviare]

User Contributed Dictionary



From caviar, from havyar, probably from khaviyar, from khaya ("egg").


  1. roe of the sturgeon, considered a delicacy


roe of the sturgeon

Derived terms

Usage notes

A citation from Jehan Palsgrave's 1530 text Lesclarcissment de la langue françoyse reads "Calver of saulmon, escume de saulmon.". This possibly refers to caviar. If this is the case it predates by some 61 years the earliest usage (1591) of caviar documented in the Oxford English Dictionary.

See also



  1. caviar

Extensive Definition

Caviar is the processed, salted roe of certain species of fish, most notably the sturgeon. It is commercially marketed worldwide as a delicacy and is eaten as a garnish or a spread; for example, with hors d'œuvres.


The word caviar entered English via Italian or Turkish,; it is ultimately derived from Persian khaviyar, from khaya "egg" (from Middle Persian khayak "egg," from Old Iranian *qvyaka-, diminutive of *avya-, from PIE *owyo-/*oyyo- "egg") + dar "bearing."
Some also think it derives from the Persian word خاگ‌آور (), meaning "the roe-generator"; others say chav-jar, which means "cake of power", a reference to the ancient Persian practice of eating caviar in stick form as a kind of elixir.
In Persian, the word refers to both the sturgeon and its roe; in Russian, the word (ikra), "roe", is used. The Russian word malossol ("little salt") sometimes appears on caviar tins to show that the caviar is minimally salted; typically, caviar is 4% to 8% salt, with the better-brand varieties generally being less salted.


The Caspian Sea is considered the source of the finest caviar in the world. Contemporary black caviar is roe from sturgeon fished from the Caspian Sea by Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Kazakhstan. The highest prices paid are for the Beluga, Ossetra, and Sevruga varieties. (The large-grained Beluga caviar is from the Beluga sturgeon, a fish which is unrelated to the Beluga whale, a mammal.) The golden Sterlet caviar was once a favorite of czars, shahs, and emperors. Currently, the dwindling fishing yields consequent to overfishing and pollution have resulted in the creation of less costly, though popular, caviar-quality roe alternatives from the whitefish and the North Atlantic salmon.
The harvest and sale of black caviar have been banned in Russia since August 1, 2007. The ban extends for 10 years, but scientific research and the artificial breeding of black caviar fish are exempted.


In the early 1900s, Canada and the United States were the major caviar suppliers to Europe; they harvested roe from the lake sturgeon in the North American midwest, and from the Shortnose sturgeon and the Atlantic sturgeon spawning in the rivers of the Eastern coast of the United States. Today, however, the Shortnose sturgeon is rated Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of endangered species and rated Endangered per the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
In Spain a fish farm called Caviar de Riofrio has begun to produce organic caviar. The company raises sturgeon in such a way that it has earned organic certification by CITES.
Current aquaculture of sturgeon is an economically viable means of sustainable, commercial caviar production, especially in Spain, France, Uruguay, and California. Hackleback caviar is a popular, inexpensive product of this industry. Paddlefish, a sturgeon cousin, is also farmed in increasing numbers.
Recently, the amount of allowed wild fish harvesting has been decreased, consequently increasing caviar prices. In September 2005, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service banned the import of Caspian Sea Beluga caviar, to protect the endangered Beluga sturgeon; a month later, the ban included Beluga caviar from the entire Black Sea basin. In January 2006, CITES, the convention for trade in endangered species, announced they were "unable to approve the [caviar] export quotas" for 2006 from wild fish stocks. In January 2007, this ban was partly lifted, allowing the sale of 96 tons of caviar, 15% below the official 2005 level.


Caviar is traditionally served with horn, wood, gold, nacre, or plastic utensils. Commercial caviar production normally involves stunning the fish (usually by clubbing its head) and extracting the ovaries; some commercial fish farmers are experimenting with surgically removing roe from living sturgeon, allowing the females to continue producing more roe during their lives.

Alternatives and imitation

right|thumb|225px|Typical Swedish sandwich with hard-boiled eggs and cod roe caviar from a tube In Scandinavia, a significantly cheaper version of caviar, made from mashed and smoked cod roe, is sold in tubes as a sandwich filling. When sold outside Scandinavia, in stores such as IKEA's Swedish food market, the product is referred to as creamed smoked roe.
An obvious sturgeon caviar imitation is Danish black coloured lumpsucker caviar, which is sold throughout Europe in small glass jars. It can also be found red coloured. A more expensive sturgeon caviar alternative, sold in Sweden and Finland, is the caviar from the vendace. In Finland caviars from the burbot and the common whitefish are also sold.
In the vegetarian foodstuffs market, Algae-based imitation caviar is produced and sold as a caviar alternative.


Given its high price in the West, caviar is synonymous with luxury and wealth. In Russia and other Eastern European cultures, though still expensive, caviar is commonly served at holiday feasts, weddings, and other festive occasions. Sturgeon-derived caviar is generally not eaten by Jews who keep kosher, because sturgeon lacks scales and thus is not considered kosher; however, this does not apply to every roe-yielding fish species. In Islam all sea or river animals such as fish are lawful and halal which applies to the sturgeon as well as its caviar (depending on which school of practice). In Hong Kong and Japan, caviar may be found on sushi and is often very affordable.


caviar in Arabic: كافيار
caviar in Czech: Kaviár
caviar in Danish: Kaviar
caviar in German: Kaviar
caviar in Spanish: Caviar
caviar in Esperanto: Kaviaro
caviar in Persian: خاویار
caviar in French: Caviar
caviar in Croatian: Kavijar
caviar in Italian: Caviale
caviar in Hebrew: קוויאר
caviar in Lithuanian: Ikrai
caviar in Dutch: Kaviaar
caviar in Japanese: キャビア
caviar in Norwegian: Kaviar
caviar in Polish: Kawior
caviar in Portuguese: Caviar
caviar in Russian: Рыбья икра
caviar in Slovenian: Kaviar
caviar in Finnish: Kaviaari
caviar in Swedish: Kaviar
caviar in Thai: คาเวียร์
caviar in Turkish: Havyar
caviar in Vietnamese: Trứng cá muối
caviar in Ukrainian: Ікра
caviar in Chinese: 鱼子酱

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

albumen, anguille, eel, egg, egg white, eggshell, fish, fish eggs, glair, kipper, kippered salmon, ovule, poisson, red herring, roe, seafood, smoked herring, spawn, vitellus, white, yellow, yolk
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1