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A variety of arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea; sense 1)
The Polynesian arrowroot (Tacca leontopetaloides), a type of arrowroot (sense 2)[n 1]
The rhizomes of Maranta arundinacea used to make the starchy substance known as arrowroot (sense 3) which is used as a thickener

From Lokono aru-aru (literally meal of meals), influenced by arrow +‎ root because the plant’s “roots” (more accurately rhizomes) are used on wounds from poison darts to absorb the poison.[1]





arrowroot (countable and uncountable, plural arrowroots)

  1. (countable, uncountable) Maranta arundinacea from the Marantaceae family, a large perennial herb native to the Caribbean area with green leaves about 15 centimeters long. [from late 17th c.]
    • 1845, Edwin Lankester, “Lecture II. Starch—Potato—Arrow-root—Tapioca—Protein—Wheat—Maize—Rice.”, in Report of Lectures on the Natural History of Plants Yielding Food; [], London: John Churchill, [], →OCLC, page 16:
      The East India arrowroot was considered the best; and the French West India arrowroot not so good. The East India arrowroot had the finest grains; the second finest were those from the potato; and third the tous les mois or French West India arrowroot; []
    • 2018, Serena A. A. Nasongo, Charlotte de Fraiture, J. B. Okeyo-Owuor, “Trade-offs between Crop Production and Other Benefits Derived from Wetland Areas: Short-term Gain versus Long-term Livelihood Options in Ombeyi Watershed, Kenya”, in John Abbink, editor, The Environmental Crunch in Africa: Growth Narratives vs. Local Realities, Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, →DOI, →ISBN, page 68:
      Arrowroots were introduced into the area in early 1983 by an elderly citizen known as Mr. Awondo, who brought it from Central Kenya where it is planted in the moist river beds. [] Arrowroots thrive where there is enough moisture in the soil for its normal growth and development.
  2. (countable, uncountable) Usually preceded by an attributive word: some other plant whose rhizomes are used to prepare a substance similar to arrowroot (sense 3), such as Zamia integrifolia (Florida arrowroot) or [[Pueraria montana var. lobata|Pueraria montana var. lobata]] (Japanese arrowroot or kudzu).
    • 1982, Lois Lucas, “Arrowroot: Pia”, in Plants of Old Hawaii, Honolulu, Hi.: Bess Press, →ISBN, page 4:
      Arrowroot (pia) is a member of the Tacca family. [] The ancient Hawaiians used the arrowroot (pia) as a food and as a medicine.
    • 2017, A. T. Sadashiva, M. V. Bharathkumar, “Japanese Arrowroot”, in M. K. Rana, editor, Vegetable Crop Science, Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, →ISBN:
      The root tubers of Japanese arrowroot can be used either in fresh dried form after cooking in a manner similar to other root crops. The fresh roots are used for the extraction of starch (kudzu powder). [] Japanese arrowroot plant foliage is also a palatable fodder for farm cattle in the form of hay, pasture or silage, especially in the off season.
  3. (uncountable) A starchy substance obtained from the rhizomes of an arrowroot plant used as a thickener.
    • 1840 February 1, “Medico-botanical Society. Arrow-root, Genuine and Impure.—Test for Ascertaining Its Quality.—Skin Diseases.”, in Thomas Wakley, editor, The Lancet, volume I, number 857, London: Printed for the editor, by George Churchill, [], →OCLC, page 704:
      Dr. Ifill could state, with certainty, that all the arrow-root imported into this country from Barbadoes, was made from the maranta; [] The difference in the quality of the arrow-roots imported into this country, depended on the care which had been employed in the preparation. The greater number of times the fecula was washed, the purer it would be.
    • 1843, Robley Dunglison, “Demulcents”, in General Therapeutics and Materia Medica, Adapted for a Medical Text Book. [...] In Two Volumes, volume II, Philadelphia, Pa.: Lea and Blanchard, →OCLC, section VIII (Agents whose Action is Prominently Mechanical), pages 396–398:
      [page 396] Arrowroot is the fecula of Maran′ta arundina′cea or West Indian arrowroot; Sex. Syst. Monandria Monogynia; Nat. Ord. Marantaceæ; a plant, which is a native of South America and the West Indies, where it is largely cultivated in gardens and provision grounds. The tubers or roots are beaten into a pulp, stirred with cold water, removing the fibres with the hand; the milky juice is passed through a fine sieve, and the starch is allowed to subside in the strained fluid. The fecula is then washed, and dried without heat. This is the Arrowroot. [] [pages 397–398] As an aliment, arrowroot is considered to be less nutritive than wheaten starch, but more palatable and digestible. [] Boiled in water or milk, it is a very common, and favourite aliment in febrile and inflammatory affections, in chronic diseases, and in convalescence from the acute.
    • 1845, Andrew Ure, “ARROW ROOT”, in Recent Improvements in Arts, Manufactures, and Mines: [], London: Printed for Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, [], →OCLC, page 10:
      The presence of potato starch in arrow root may be discovered by the microscope. Arrow root consists of regular ovoid particles of nearly equal size, whereas potato starch consists of particles of an irregular ovoid or truncated form, exceedingly irregular in their dimensions, some being so large as 1300 of an inch, and others only 12000.
    • 1861, Isabella Beeton, “Chapter XXIX. Recipes.”, in The Book of Household Management; [], London: S[amuel] O[rchart] Beeton, [], →OCLC, paragraph 1407 (Arrowroot Blanc-mange), page 706:
      Mix to a smooth batter the arrowroot with ½ pint of the milk; put the other pint on the fire, with laurel-leaves or lemon-peel, whichever may be preferred, and let the milk steep until it is well flavoured. Then strain the milk, and add it, boiling, to the mixed arrowroot; sweeten it with sifted sugar, and let it boil, stirring it all the time, till it thickens sufficiently to come from the saucepan.
    • 1873 September, P. L. Simmonds, “The Edible Starches of Commerce, Their Production and Consumption”, in Charles F[rederick] Chandler, W[illiam] H[enry] Chandler, editors, The American Chemist: A Monthly Journal of Theoretical, Analytical, and Technical Chemistry, volume IV, number 3, Philadelphia, Pa.: Henry C[harles] Lea, →OCLC, page 98, column 2:
      Arrowroot is made from Zamia angustifolia in the Bahamas, etc. Under the local name of Coonti an arrowroot is prepared in Florida from the fecula of Zamia integrifolia. [] Arrowroot prepared in Queensland from Encephalartus (Zamia) spiralis was shown in 1872 at the London Exhibition.
    • 1982, Lois Lucas, “Arrowroot: Pia”, in Plants of Old Hawaii, Honolulu, Hi.: Bess Press, →ISBN, page 4:
      For food, they [ancient Hawaiians] mixed the arrowroot with coconut cream or milk (wai o ka nui), or wrapped it in tī () leaves. Also they steamed the arrowroot in an imu to make the dessert haupia.
    • 1996, Rachel Laudan, “The Coconut and the Arrowroot”, in The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage (Kolowalu Book), Honolulu, Hi.: University of Hawaiʻi Press, →ISBN, part 4 (In the Beginning), pages 229–230:
      The Hawaiian dessert most commonly encountered by visitors is haupia. At every commercial luau, a thick and stodgy pudding of cornstarch and coconut milk is cut into squares and served on pieces of green ti leaf. This version is a long way from the original. [] [T]he coconut milk should be thickened with pia, the Polynesian arrowroot. [] The most highly regarded "arrowroot" is West Indian (Maranta arundinacea); [] Haupia made with this West Indian arrowroot was indeed creamier, almost gelatinous, nothing like so solid and pasty, and with a clearer flavor than haupia made with cornstarch. It is worth seeking out arrowroot, with the caveat that you may not be getting what you expect.

Alternative forms


Derived terms

Terms derived from arrowroot






  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “arrow-root”, in Online Etymology Dictionary, retrieved 20 June 2018; arrowroot”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading