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Imagine that you're having a really sweet and high-fat piece of cake. At first, you can have it just fine, but after a while you get sick of its overwhelming taste. How do I describe that I am now disgusted of this really sweet/fat taste in one verb/adjective/short phrase? Or is there a name for this taste, similar to savory and spiciness and sweetness? In Vietnamese, we have this adjective "ngấy" that describes our feeling of disgust/sickness when we eat something too sweet or too fatty. In colloquial speech, it's also used to describe the excessive taste of sweetness or fatness. However, in English, I only find the word "cloy", which, to the best of my knowledge, does not apply to taste.

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    That taste is nauseating after a while.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 20:46
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    You said "overwhelming" - that can work. If you ask a child, you may just get "yuck"
    – Flydog57
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 23:00
  • Is that "surfeit"?
    – user51462
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 6:23
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    Not in English, but maybe to compare in Cantonese/Chinese there's the word 滞 zai6 {zhì} cantonese.org/search.php?q=%E6%BB%9E translated as "(adjective) (of food) 1. oily; 2. fatty; (of stomach) 1. too stuffed; too full" "(adjective) loss appetite (adjective) bloated; full; stuffed (adjective) fatty; greasy; oily". For sweetness, there's 甜到漏 literally "sweet until leak/spillage". Unfortunately no particularly insightful English translations.
    – D.R
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 7:01
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    @D.R Mandarin would use in much the same way – though, like the Cantonese word, it’s more about discomfort caused by fattiness and greasiness rather than by excessive sweetness. Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 11:19

5 Answers 5

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The verb 'cloy' that you have found is used relatively rarely. We more often use cloying, an adjective derived from the verb, to discuss excessively sweet tastes or smells. It also has a more figurative use when discussing things such as songs, films, books, etc, which are excessively sentimental or childish. If something is cloying, it cloys.

As I'd predicted, guests who normally don't like dessert wine enjoyed its lighter, less cloying flavour.

Goose meat is dark, rich and sumptuous. In taste and texture it holds certain similarities to duck, albeit with a slightly less cloying flavour

Red ale with a lot of crystal malt giving a bittersweet and slightly cloying flavour.

cloying adjective (TOO SWEET) disapproving

tasting or smelling too sweet and therefore unpleasant:

This is a wonderful wine - honeyed and rich without being remotely cloying.

The room was filled with the cloying scent of lilies.

Cloying (Cambridge Dictionary)

Used about a book:

“Nauumay” an exceedingly expressive Tagalog word that we struggle to depict in the English language, the closest to which I could think of is the word ‘cloying’. Nauumay is my general feeling every time I try to continue reading the bestseller novel entitled The Time Traveler’s Wife written by Audrey Niffenegger. No matter how I struggle in trying to finish reading the book, it seems that every page seem [sic] obnoxiously nauseating.

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    For me, cloy ,means to stick with you and is not necessarily unpleasant.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 0:27
  • On "nauumay", in some instances, it's pretty close to "fed up". "Nauumay na ako sa dami ng masasamang balita." -> "I'm fed up with all these bad news.". Ironically, "fed up" doesn't seem to fit when it comes to food. Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 7:58
  • @Lambie - that's interesting. I had never come across that before, but I see that the OED lists an obsolete meaning for 'cloy' before the 'sweet' one, 'to nail, or firmly attach'. Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 9:06
  • @rikitikitik - 'cloy' can mean 'make someone weary (with excess of anything)', which fits 'make fed up'. So is it possible that the Tagalog thing is a misapprehension? Should I delete it? Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 9:10
  • I also think that a very cloying taste or smell does tend to linger with one. Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 11:00
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It depends on several factors, particularly what the particular taste is that disgusts you and the reason for that disgust.

If the flavour is just too strong, to the point of making something unpleasant or disgusting, we'd describe it as "overwhelmingly [taste]", or potentially just "overwhelming" if there are many tastes that are too strong.

If, on the other hand, just having any of that taste at all is what makes it unpleasant (many people find this with Parmesan cheese, due to the butyric acid in it, a scent/flavour chemical also associated with vomit) we'd probably just describe the overall result as "disgusting".

For sweetness you can also describe something that is overwhelmingly sweet as "sickly sweet" or "saccharin".

Food that has too fatty a taste is likely to be described as "greasy" or "greasy-tasting".

I would generally understand "cloying" as referring to a lingering taste (probably, but not always a sweet one), and mostly used for sticky foods.

The word "aftertaste" refers to the flavour that lasts after the food has been swallowed and whilst not strictly negative is most often used negatively. It does require an additional adjective to specify what the lingering flavour is though (even if that is just "bad aftertaste").

There are also words for very strong flavours (especially sour and hot flavours) that, depending on the speaker and the context, could be used as a positive or negative e.g. "eye-watering" (mostly for very sour foods, but also for spicy heat), "fiery" (for spicy heat), or even "salty" (this is likely a positive if used to describe savoury snacks, but a negative if describing a main or sweet dish).

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You could say you're experiencing "sugar overload". It's exactly the sensation you describe; you've had too much sugar and it now tastes kind of disgusting. It's just a little informal and, of course, a noun describing a feeling, not an adjective describing the food.

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A more polite way of saying it would be that the cake is "too rich" for you.

See the sixth definition of the word "rich" in the Oxford English dictionary

​ containing a lot of fat, butter, eggs, etc. and making you feel full quickly

  • a rich, creamy sauce
  • a rich chocolate cake
  • The chocolate orange fondant was too rich for me.
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I’d say that there just isn’t a word for that, but you have to just literally use a phrase and explain it: I think people normally consider it more of a feeling than as a taste. “Nauseating” and “sick of it” describe things you feel when you are feeling like that, but don’t refer to richness specifically. I feel like “Cloying” is more a disgusting sweetness, without being related to fat. I’d say, “sick of the richness,” maybe?

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