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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Dioscorea \Di`os*co"re*a\, n. [NL. Named after Dioscorides the Greek physician.] (Bot.) A genus of plants, the roots of which are eaten as yams. See Yam.


n. (plural of yam English)

Usage examples of "yams".

The inhabitants of Kalo possess gardens, where the rich alluvial soil produces a superabundance of coco-nuts, bananas, yams, sweet potatoes, and taro.

I will therefore only say that a totem is commonly a class of natural objects, usually a species of animals or plants, with which a savage identifies himself in a curious way, imagining that he himself and his kinsfolk are for all practical purposes kangaroos or emus, rats or bats, hawks or cockatoos, yams or grass-seed, and so on, according to the particular class of natural objects which he claims as his totem.

This, which is called Tjiti, represents the spot where an old woman spent a long time digging for yams, the latter being indicated by great heaps of stones lying all around.

To indicate roughly the degree of advance we need only say that, whereas the Australians are nomadic hunters and fishers, entirely ignorant of agriculture, and destitute to a great extent not only of houses but even of clothes, the natives of Torres Straits live in settled villages and diligently till the soil, raising a variety of crops, such as yams, sweet potatoes, bananas, sugar-cane, and tobacco.

Having placed the body on the stage and deposited their offerings of hair under it, the relatives took some large yams, cut them in pieces, and laid the pieces beside the body in order to serve as food for the ghost, who was supposed to eat it at night.

Other vegetable foods are furnished by sweet potatoes, taro, yams, bananas, sugar-cane, and coco-nuts, all of which the natives cultivate.

Among the plants which they cultivate are taro, yams, sweet potatoes, bananas, various kinds of vegetables, and sugar-cane.

Taros, yams, and coco-nuts are also suspended from the scaffold, no doubt for the refreshment of the ghost.

They belong to the Papuan stock and subsist chiefly by the cultivation of yams, which they plant in April or May and reap in January or February.

Their purpose is to persuade the souls of the dead to ward off all the evil influences that might thwart the growth of the yams, their staple food.

Their staple foods are taro and yams, which they grow in their fields.

Thus, for example, one day while the ghost, blinded by the strong sunlight, is cowering in a dark corner or reposing at full length in the grave, his relatives will set up a low scaffold in a field, cover it with leaves, and pile up over it a mass of the field fruits which belonged to the dead man, so that the whole erection may appear to the eye of the unsuspecting ghost a heap of taro, yams, and so forth, and nothing more.

When darkness has fallen, out comes the ghost and prowling about espies the heap of yams and taro.

When they are planting yams, they pray to two women named Tendung and Molewa that they would cause the yams to put forth as long suckers as the strings which the women twist to make into carrying-nets.

Before they dig up the yams, they take a branch and drive with it the evil spirits or ghosts from the house in which the yams are to be stored.