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Lagniappe

Definition: A small gift, a little something extra.

Pronunciation: lan-YUP

Origin

Dated back to 1849, this fun word comes from the Creole population of New Orleans. The dry meaning is a dividend, something that is extra; big companies and conglomerates however, have nothing to do with it as it mainly referred to the New Orleans shopkeepers as they presented a little gift to their buying customers, after the sale.

“We picked  up one excellent word- a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get;” writes Mark Twain in his “Life on the Mississippi“, “a nice, limber, expressive, handy word- lagniappe. They pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish- so they said”

Indeed, in American Spanish la napa is a small gift.

Why this word?

Because all gifts are great, but the ones you don’t expect, those small gestures of appreciation for whatever reason- are the very best and as such- we should have a word for them!

How to use lagniappe?

Simply in the same way we use the noun gift, but we must watch for the smaller, more surprising context. You cannot say ‘my mom gave me a nice lagniappe for my b-day’ as in this occasion it is expected and could even refer to a disappointment; this is not the idea… The idea is for a fun little gesture: ‘after paying at the store we received 3 tiny crafted candles as a lagniappe’, or ‘David left a lagniappe for me on the pillow… He is so romantic!’

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Written by Victoria Sheinkin

Victoria Sheinkin is a writer, content editor, translator and chief editor for UnusedWords.com. Speaking three and a half languages, she holds two BAs from the Tel Aviv university- Communication and jounalism, English literature and linguistics.

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