How would you normally and in everyday speech allude to the following cases:

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We put all these in the same category in our language; but I have no any idea how shall I categorize them in English, while there are several words you use in English for this happening:

  • mold / moldy, mustiness / musty, fusty, mildew.

First of all, I need to know which noun would you use to call all these green, gray and blue substances that form on old foods / vegetables / fruits / bread / cheese? Do you use a specific word for an edible type (like cheese) or inedible ones (like bread) or you categorize all them in the same group?

  • I.e. This food / these vegetables / these fruits / that bread / the cheese is covered with mold OR have/has mold on it!

Then, I need to know the adjective you use to attribute this quality to the foods / vegetables / fruits / bread / cheese which contain these substances on/within them.

Finally, I am curious about the verb / phrase you use to indicate this situation for all these cases in my question! For instance, do you say:

  • This food / these vegetables / this orange / this bread / this cheese have / has gotten moldy etc.

or you have a particular rule for it?

1 Answer 1


The photos you shared (except for the Bleu Cheese / blue cheese) are all moldy objects (foods that have gotten moldy or become moldy).

The bleu cheese is technically moldy, but I don’t call it “moldy” because moldy also implies not good to eat. I would call it moldy only when discussing how bleu cheese is made, or explaining that it does contain mold.

Musty” is usually used to describe bad-smelling air, as in a damp basement.

This basement is musty.

It smells musty in here.

The old treasure chest was musty inside.

Fusty isn’t used much in American English. If I heard it I would assume it would be a synonym for “musty.”

Mildew is a type of mold that is black in color. Shower curtains get mildew when they stay wet too long.

Can you try to clean that mildew out of the shower?

The old wet socks got mildew on them from staying in a plastic bag too long.

  • 1
    Good distinction: the cheese has mould in but is not mouldy Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 15:42
  • 1
    "Mildew" seems to be a common term for whatever makes old and badly stored fabric and paper stink, whether it has anything to do with black molds or not. Probably related to German "Mehltau", which is a fungal plant disease. Oh, it seems "mildew" is also used for that in gardening/botanical terminology. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 0:29
  • 1
    Note also the distinction between things that are moldy (mold spores have implanted and grown, usually on the outside of the food, generally green-blue or white) and rotten (bacteria have multiplied and eaten away at the food, often at the inside, leaving a mushy black area).
    – randomhead
    Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 4:53

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