AskDefine | Define spelt

Dictionary Definition



1 a psychological state induced by (or as if induced by) a magical incantation [syn: enchantment, trance]
2 a time for working (after which you will be relieved by someone else); "it's my go"; "a spell of work" [syn: go, tour, turn]
3 a period of indeterminate length (usually short) marked by some action or condition; "he was here for a little while"; "I need to rest for a piece"; "a spell of good weather"; "a patch of bad weather" [syn: while, piece, patch]
4 a verbal formula believed to have magical force; "he whispered a spell as he moved his hands"; "inscribed around its base is a charm in Balinese" [syn: magic spell, charm]


1 recite the letters of or give the spelling of; "How do you spell this word?"
2 indicate or signify; "I'm afraid this spells trouble!" [syn: import]
3 write or name the letters that comprise the conventionally accepted form of (a word or part of a word); "He spelled the word wrong in this letter" [syn: write]
4 place under a spell [ant: unspell] [also: spelt]spelt n : hardy wheat grown mostly in Europe for livestock feed [syn: Triticum spelta, Triticum aestivum spelta]spelt See spell

User Contributed Dictionary


Etymology 1

Chiefly British, through French "Espeller" and dialect nuance.

Alternative spellings




Etymology 2



  1. A type of wheat, Triticum aestivum spelta
a type of wheat, Triticum aestivum spelta
  • Dutch: spelt
  • German: Dinkel
  • Hungarian: tönkölybúza




  1. Kind of cereal

Extensive Definition

Spelt (Triticum spelta) is a hexaploid species of wheat. Spelt was an important staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times; it now survives as a relict crop in Central Europe and has found a new market as a health food. Spelt is sometimes considered a subspecies of the closely related species common wheat (T. aestivum), in which case its botanical name is considered to be Triticum aestivum subsp. spelta.


Spelt has a complex history. It is a hexaploid wheat species known from genetic evidence to have originated as a hybrid of a domesticated tetraploid wheat such as emmer wheat and the wild goat-grass Aegilops tauschii. This hybridization must have taken place in the Near East because this is where Ae. tauschii grows, and it must have taken place prior to the appearance of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum, a hexaploid free-threshing derivative of spelt) in the archaeological record c. 8000 years ago.
Genetic evidence shows that spelt wheat can also arise as the result of hybridization of bread wheat and emmer wheat, although only at some date following the initial Aegilops-tetraploid wheat hybridisation. The much later appearance of spelt in Europe might thus be the result of a later, second, hybridization event between emmer and bread wheat. Recent DNA evidence supports an independent origin for European spelt, through this hybridization. However whether spelt has two separate origins in Asia and Europe, or single origin in the Near East, is currently unresolved.

Early history

The earliest archaeological evidence of spelt is from the fifth millennium BC in Transcaucasia, north of the Black Sea. However, the most abundant and best-documented archaeological evidence of spelt is in Europe. Remains of spelt have been found in some later Neolithic sites (2500 - 1700 BC) in Central Europe. During the Bronze Age, spelt spread widely in central Europe. In the Iron Age (750-15 BC), spelt became a principal wheat species in southern Germany and Switzerland, and by 500 BC also in southern Britain.
References to the cultivation of spelt wheat in Biblical times (see matzo), in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and in ancient Greece, are incorrect, and result from confusion with emmer wheat.

Later history

In the Middle Ages, spelt was cultivated in parts of Switzerland, Tyrol and Germany. Spelt was introduced to the United States in the 1890s. In the 20th century, spelt was replaced in almost all those areas in which it was still grown by bread wheat. As spelt requires fewer fertilizers, the organic farming movement made it more popular again towards the end of the century.


Spelt contains about 57.9 percent carbohydrates (excluding 9.2 percent fibre), 17.0 percent protein and 3.0 percent fat, as well as dietary minerals and vitamins. As it contains a moderate amount of gluten, it is suitable for baking. In Germany, the unripe spelt grains are dried and eaten as Grünkern, which literally means "green grain".
Spelt is closely related to common wheat, and is not suitable for people with celiac disease. Some people with wheat allergy or wheat intolerance tolerate spelt.


The name of spelt in Hungarian is "tönköly", in German is Dinkel, and the hull which covers the seed is called Spelz. Hulled grains, which don't thresh freely like modern wheat, were identified by this quality and the term "spelt wheats" was often used in nineteenth century English to mean hulled wheats in general, not just spelt wheat.
The Luxembourger surname Speltz is derived from this grain. In Italy both emmer wheat and spelt are known as farro, although emmer is more common in Italy. In France spelt is known as épeautre. In Romania it is known as alac.
The Spanish terms for spelt are espelta or escaña mayor. Historically, in Spain spelt has only been grown in Asturias, where it is known as escanda.


Spelt flour is becoming more easily available, being sold in UK supermarkets since 2007. Spelt is also sold in the form of a coarse pale bread, similar in colour and in texture to light rye breads but with a slightly sweet and nutty flavour. Cookies and crackers are also produced, but are more likely to be found in a specialty bakery or health food store than in a regular grocery store.
Spelt pasta is also available in health food stores and speciality shops.
The raw grain when chewed releases trace amounts of gluten giving the mass a slight resilience, not unlike gum (whereas wheat becomes a sticky glutinous mass, similar to thick jam). The texture is slightly crunchy. The nutty flavour is more intense than it is in most breads and some prefer the raw substance to the baked goods.
Dutch jenever makers distill a special kind of gin made with spelt as a curiosity gin marketed for connoisseurs. Beer brewed from spelt is sometimes seen in Bavaria.
Spelt matza is baked in Israel for Passover and is available in some USA grocery stores.


  • Hulled Wheats. Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 4. Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Hulled Wheats 21-22 July 1995, Castelvecchio Pascoli, Tuscany, Italy ">}}
  • Domestication of plants in the Old World
spelt in Breton: Yell
spelt in Catalan: Espelta
spelt in Czech: Pšenice špalda
spelt in Danish: Spelt
spelt in German: Dinkel
spelt in Esperanto: Spelto
spelt in Spanish: Triticum spelta
spelt in Basque: Espelta
spelt in Finnish: Spelttivehnä
spelt in French: Épeautre
spelt in Hebrew: כוסמין
spelt in Icelandic: Spelt
spelt in Italian: Triticum spelta
spelt in Luxembourgish: Spelz
spelt in Dutch: Spelt
spelt in Norwegian Nynorsk: Spelt
spelt in Norwegian: Spelt
spelt in Polish: Pszenica orkisz
spelt in Portuguese: Espelta
spelt in Russian: Полба
spelt in Slovenian: Pira
spelt in Swedish: Dinkel
spelt in Walloon: Speate
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