Definition of kava in English:



  • 1mass noun A narcotic sedative drink made in Polynesia from the crushed roots of a plant of the pepper family.

    • ‘Also, avoid combining kava with alcohol or sedatives.’
    • ‘In Polynesia, kava is considered the ‘drink of the gods.’’
    • ‘In many cultures, men and occasionally women retire each evening to the nakamal to prepare and drink kava, an infusion of the pepper plant.’
    • ‘All chief ceremonies, however, regardless of village, culminate in the kava ceremony wherein the candidate drinks kava for the first time as the new chief.’
    • ‘They create beautiful spears, clubs, ceremonial bowls for kava drinking, and elaborately decorated seagoing canoes.’
  • 2The Polynesian shrub from which kava is obtained.

    Piper methysticum, family Piperaceae

    • ‘There are no roads or cars - just tidy grassy areas where people dry the narcotic kava root in the sun.’
    • ‘The first version portrays him as parting the sea with a cycas leaf, the second adds soil enclosed in a wild kava leaf and a bamboo flute to the ritual paraphernalia of departure.’
    • ‘Visitors are invited to partake in a yaqona - a welcoming ceremony with a drink brewed from kava root, served in an ironwood bowl, and sipped from a coconut-shell dish.’
    • ‘My neighbor says the herb kava is a natural way to calm nerves.’
    • ‘Conversely, Hawaiians were traditionally the biggest gamblers of Polynesia - going so far as to wager their own lives in surfing competitions - and they made fermented drinks of kava roots.’
    • ‘If you have mood disorders such as depression, currently take mood-altering medication or have Parkinson's disease, avoid the herb kava.’


Late 18th century: from Tongan.