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Language Arts

Marinate vs. Marinade

How do you decide to use the word "marinade" vs. "marinate"? This article gives definitions for both "marinate" and "marinade."Keep reading for tips on choosing whether to use "marinade" or "marinate" in your writing.

Marinate the chicken for at least an hour in a marinade made with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and scallions. English has some sets of word pairs in which there is a consistent spelling pattern that helps establish the difference between the noun or adjective form and the verb form. Marinate and marinade are outliers, and this - plus the fact that some people use marinade as both the noun and the verb form - complicates the issue for people who are trying to create a distinction by using each form with a distinct meaning. So here we’ll explore the word pair to help you understand the relationship.


When people use both the form marinade and marinate, they use marinade as a noun and marinate as a verb. The noun marinade came into English from the French mariner “to pickle” or “to marinate” in the early eighteenth century, but is likely to be traced back to the Italian word marinare, “to marinate,” which comes from the Latin marina, which refers to seawater, brine, and pickling. Its basic meaning is a mixture of liquid ingredients such as oil, vinegar or some other acidic element, and herbs, used to soak food prior to eating or cooking to add flavor and, in some cases, to tenderize. Here is an example sentence:

Besides the age-old techniques of hanging and aging, pounding and marinade are the usual methods of tenderizing meat.

Despite its etymology and its common meaning however, marinade is used of a wide variety of preparations from a wide variety of cultures that serve the same functions: flavor enhancers or tenderizers. Dishes that have marination as a key element include the German dishes sauerbraten and hasenpfeffer; the English dish jugged hare; the poached fish dish known as escabèche in Spain and Provence and escovitch in Jamaica; the Latin American raw fish appetizer called variously seviche, ceviche, and cebiche; the Japanese dish teriyaki and the Japanese condiment of pickled ginger called amazu shoga; as well a Greek kalamata olives. Mexican adobo sauce is used as a marinade for many dishes.

Interestingly, marinade as a verb entered English around forty years before it was first used as a noun, but also about forty years after the form marinate was first used in English. Marinade is pronounced /MEHR ih NADE/ or /MEHR uh NADE/ or /MAW ruh NADE/.


The transitive and intransitive verb marinate (which both takes an object and can stand alone without one) entered English in the mid-seventeenth century from the Italian word marinato, the past participle of marinare, meaning “to marinate.”  Here are examples of the two forms:

Transitive Verb: Marinate the three-bean salad for 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator, mixing thoroughly several times.

Intransitive Verb: Slice the London Broil thinly and place in a glass baking dish; pour the mixture evenly over the meat, cover tightly with plastic wrap. Marinate for two hours.

Marinate may be pronounced /MEHR ih NATE/ or /MEHR uh NATE/ or /MAW ruh NATE/.

Distinguishing Marinade and Marinate

If you use the form marinade for both the noun and the verb, there’s nothing to distinguish. If - as in many other countries of the world, like Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Russia, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden - you do distinguish, here’s a hint to remember which is which:

Because marinades are usually made with an acidic element, it is not recommended to marinate foods in a pan: it is better put the marinade and the food in a glass dish. So, think about putting the marinade with a d in a dish with a d, and there you have the noun connected to its spelling. By the process of elimination, the other spelling (with the t) must be the verb.