Is there a Latin idiom for food that is cooked just right (not too much, not too little), similar to the popular Italian phrase "al dente"? I doubt the direct translation denti or ad dentem makes any sense. Perhaps something like apte coctus would work, but I would like to know if there is any attested — or even better, common — phrase for this. Maybe Apicius has something suitable, but I am not familiar with the work.

  • 2
    A "literal" translation would be ad dentem, not denti, since al ultimately derives from ad (plus ille).
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 15:26
  • @C.M.Weimer You are right. I added ad dentem. These two are the obvious first candidates but neither sounds good or familiar to me.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 17:36

2 Answers 2


Pliny NH XV has palati gratia. It's not exactly al dente, of course, but at least it indicates that taste was referred to the palate, rather than the teeth:

oleum ipsum sale vindicatur a pinguitudinis vitio. cortice oleae conciso odorem accipit. medicatio alias ut vino; palati gratia nulla est nec tam numerosa differentia: tribus ut plurimum bonitatibus distat. odor in tenui argutior, et is tamen etiam in optimo brevis.

In the absence of anything better, I think you might justifiably use dentium gratia, though I'd personally prefer your ad dentem. Or you might get a bit nearer with ad morsum.

  • 3
    According to the (uncited) Online Etymology Dictionary, the metaphorical use of "tooth" is first attested in the 14th century.
    – brianpck
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 17:20

Apicius regularly gives the word mollis for "cooked until soft", such as in 3.2:

polypodium in tepidam mittes. ubi mollierit, rades, et minutum cum pipere et cumino trito in patinam ferventem mittes et uteris.

Parboil polypody root so as to soften them, cut them into small pieces, season with ground pepper and cumin, arrange in a baking dish, finish on the fire and serve.

Given that, I would actually offer the suggestion of mollis fere or paene mollis, "almost soft," as an appropriate description since, especially since, as brianpck points out, talking about teeth here would be anachronistic and a forced idiom.

  • 1
    A question like this points to a familiar problem when translating English idiom within an established text into Latin. There doesn't seem to be a consensus on what to do, and when (as often happens) there is no direct equivalent, an acceptable solution can be tricky. I'm hard put to choose between any of the suggestions made here!
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 10:04

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