In the comments on the last baby-orient(at)ed post, an anonymous person said:
Posset. No mention of posset!
Well, that was because I hadn't yet come across the term. But now that baby Grover is posseting, I'm hearing it all the time. First, as a verb (transitive or intransitive) by Lazybrain and the (BrE) health visitor, and today as a noun by Better Half, who came home from shopping and observed:
That's a nice bit of posset on your top!
So, have the AmE speakers out there figured out what (BrE) posset means? It means 'to regurgitate small amounts of milk', i.e. (mostly AmE) spit up (which can be used as a noun or verb--depending on where you put the stress). The original meaning of posset was:
A drink made from hot milk curdled with ale, wine, or other liquor, flavoured with sugar, herbs, spices, etc., and often drunk for medicinal purposes (OED-draft revision March 2007).
The connection with baby regurgitation is, of course, the curdled milk. Grover's been through four outfits and three sets of sheets today because of the possetting. Meanwhile, I'm just accruing layers of posset on the outfit I put on this morning. We can see who has the status in this household...


  1. Now I knew 'posset' was a historical drink with medical conotations (although I didn't know the ingredients).

    However, I don't recall hearing the word in relation to baby sick. We always just called it 'baby sick'.

    Ohh - I just realised that I can use my Google ID here. I used to be JohnB - now I will be j.bee.uk Which gives my location in the ID :P

  2. I've never heard the term "posset". We just call it spit up if it's a little bit or throw up or barf or yak when the baby produces a lot of volume (my kid had reflux)

    When you throw up in an amusement park, it's euphamistically called a "protein spill."

  3. One sad (?) result of doing Shakespeare for one's (UK) school exams is that one play is irrevocably etched on the brain ... 35 years on , I am reminded of the king's murder in Macbeth - "I have drugged their possets".

  4. Shakespeare also used it as a verb, to mean 'to curdle':

    a1616 SHAKESPEARE Hamlet (1623) I. v. 68 And with a sodaine vigour it doth posset [1604 possesse] And curd, like Aygre droppings into Milke, The thin and wholsome blood.

    But the 'baby-sick' meaning didn't seem to exist in his time. First citation (intransitive verb) is from 1781, with the transitive verb and noun coming in the 19th century.

  5. I've only ever heard of posset as some kind of weird olde drinke, too. But I don't have any babies, so maybe that's why. (I'm in the UK.)

  6. Wow that's a new one on me. Growing up in the north east of England, we were usually aquainted with the oldest of phrases, but the only thing we said to announce a "deposit" (any connection?) was "The baby's been sick down your back".

  7. I (Canadian) too know posset only from the line in MacBeth. To me it's baby puke, which is coincidentally the way my friend describes the colour of my car. I recognize spit up, too.

  8. Since so many people are saying that they've not heard the term posset, I thought I'd provide this bit of evidence that it's a pretty mainstream word in the world of baby care in the UK.

  9. We (children's father and myself) always called infant spit-up 'cheese' (noun and verb). Don't know how widespread that is, but it seems to have the same logic as posset.

  10. Lynne,

    Growing up in the Midwest of the US, we just called it "urp".


  11. Ah! The joys of having a new baby in the house! The delights of posseting! (You'll know by now, Lynne, that there's far worse to come.) My baby is 32 now, although it seems but five minutes.

    This is not only a fascinating blog about language, then, but a real-time family drama, albeit presented to me in an odd order owing to the way I'm paginating backwards. I love it!


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)