Cereal is a grassy grain used for food, like corn or wheat. But if someone offers you a bowl of cereal, don’t expect a pile of grass. Cereal is also a popular breakfast food served in a bowl with milk.

You can use the word cereal when you talk about a grain crop, the harvested grain, or the prepared breakfast food. Oatmeal is a hot cereal, and Cheerios is a cold one. Originally, cereal meant "having to do with edible grain," from the Latin Cerealis, "of grain," but also "of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture." Next time you enjoy a bowl of Fruit Loops, make sure to thank Ceres, the goddess of agriculture.

Definitions of cereal
  1. noun
    grass whose starchy grains are used as food: wheat; rice; rye; oats; maize; buckwheat; millet
    synonyms: cereal grass
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    annual grass of Europe and North Africa; grains used as food and fodder (referred to primarily in the plural: `oats')
    a plant cultivated since prehistoric times, grown for forage and grain
    annual or perennial rhizomatous marsh grasses; seed used for food; straw used for paper
    rice grass, ricegrass
    any grass of the genus Oryzopsis
    Pennisetum Americanum, Pennisetum glaucum, bulrush millet, cattail millet, pearl millet
    tall grass having cattail like spikes; grown in Africa and Asia for its grain and in the United States chiefly for forage; sometimes used in making beer
    Secale cereale, rye
    hardy annual cereal grass widely cultivated in northern Europe where its grain is the chief ingredient of black bread and in North America for forage and soil improvement
    any of various small-grained annual cereal and forage grasses of the genera Panicum, Echinochloa, Setaria, Sorghum, and Eleusine
    a cereal grass
    annual or biennial grass having erect flower spikes and light brown grains
    Indian corn, Zea mays, corn, maize
    tall annual cereal grass bearing kernels on large ears: widely cultivated in America in many varieties; the principal cereal in Mexico and Central and South America since pre-Columbian times
    (Great Britain) any of various cereal plants (especially the dominant crop of the region--wheat in Great Britain or oats in Scotland and Ireland)
    Zizania aquatica, wild rice
    perennial aquatic grass of North America bearing grain used for food
    Avena sativa, cereal oat
    widely cultivated in temperate regions for its edible grains
    Avena fatua, wild oat, wild oat grass
    common in meadows and pastures
    Avena barbata, slender wild oat
    oat of southern Europe and southwestern Asia
    Avene sterilis, animated oat, wild red oat
    Mediterranean oat held to be progenitor of modern cultivated oat
    Echinochloa crusgalli, barn grass, barn millet, barnyard grass
    a coarse annual panic grass; a cosmopolitan weed; occasionally used for hay or grazing
    Echinochloa frumentacea, Japanese barnyard millet, Japanese millet, billion-dollar grass, sanwa millet
    coarse annual grass cultivated in Japan and southeastern Asia for its edible seeds and for forage; important wildlife food in United States
    Eleusine indica, goose grass, wire grass, yard grass, yardgrass
    coarse annual grass having fingerlike spikes of flowers; native to Old World tropics; a naturalized weed elsewhere
    African millet, Eleusine coracana, coracan, corakan, finger millet, kurakkan, ragee, ragi
    East Indian cereal grass whose seed yield a somewhat bitter flour, a staple in the Orient
    Hordeum vulgare, common barley
    grass yielding grain used for breakfast food and animal feed and in malt beverages
    Hordeum murinum, barley grass, wall barley
    European annual grass often found as a weed in waste ground especially along roadsides and hedgerows
    Hordeum jubatum, foxtail barley, squirreltail barley, squirreltail grass
    barley grown for its highly ornamental flower heads with delicate long silky awns; North America and northeastern Asia
    Hordeum pusillum, little barley
    annual barley native to western North America and widespread in southern United States and tropical America
    Oryza sativa, cultivated rice
    yields the staple food of 50 percent of world's population
    Indian millet, Oryzopsis hymenoides, mountain rice, silk grass, silkgrass
    valuable forage grass of dry upland areas and plains of western North America to northern Mexico
    Oryzopsis miliacea, smilo, smilo grass
    perennial mountain rice native to Mediterranean region and introduced into North America
    panic grass
    any grass of the genus Panicum; grown for grain and fodder
    economically important Old World tropical cereal grass
    Triticum durum, Triticum turgidum, durum, durum wheat, hard wheat, macaroni wheat
    wheat with hard dark-colored kernels high in gluten and used for bread and pasta; grown especially in southern Russia, North Africa, and northern central North America
    soft wheat
    wheat with soft starch kernels used in pastry and breakfast cereals
    Triticum aestivum, common wheat
    widely cultivated in temperate regions in many varieties for its commercially important grain
    Triticum aestivum spelta, Triticum spelta, spelt
    hardy wheat grown mostly in Europe for livestock feed
    Triticum dicoccum, emmer, starch wheat, two-grain spelt
    hard red wheat grown especially in Russia and Germany; in United States as stock feed
    Triticum dicoccum dicoccoides, wild emmer, wild wheat
    found wild in Palestine; held to be prototype of cultivated wheat
    field corn
    corn grown primarily for animal feed or market grain
    Zea mays rugosa, Zea saccharata, green corn, sugar corn, sweet corn, sweet corn plant
    a corn plant developed in order to have young ears that are sweet and suitable for eating
    Zea mays everta, popcorn
    corn having small ears and kernels that burst when exposed to dry heat
    type of:
    narrow-leaved green herbage: grown as lawns; used as pasture for grazing animals; cut and dried as hay
  2. noun
    foodstuff prepared from the starchy grains of cereal grasses
    synonyms: food grain, grain
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    corn, edible corn
    ears of corn that can be prepared and served for human food
    grain intended to be or that has been ground
    the hulled and crushed grain of various cereals
    small seed of any of various annual cereal grasses especially Setaria italica
    barley, barleycorn
    a grain of barley
    grain ground into flour
    wheat, wheat berry
    grains of common wheat; sometimes cooked whole or cracked as cereal; usually ground into flour
    seed of the annual grass Avena sativa (spoken of primarily in the plural as `oats')
    grains used as food either unpolished or more often polished
    Indian rice, wild rice
    grains of aquatic grass of North America
    a cereal grain (usually barley) that is kiln-dried after having been germinated by soaking in water; used especially in brewing and distilling
    green corn, sweet corn
    corn that can be eaten as a vegetable while still young and soft
    hulled corn with the bran and germ removed
    small kernels of corn exploded by heat
    pearl barley
    barley ground into small round pellets
    bulghur, bulgur, bulgur wheat
    parched crushed wheat
    cracked wheat
    grains of wheat that have been crushed into small pieces
    brown rice
    unpolished rice retaining the yellowish-brown outer layer
    polished rice, white rice
    having husk or outer brown layers removed
    rice in the husk either gathered or still in the field
    unfermented or fermenting malt
    type of:
    food product, foodstuff
    a substance that can be used or prepared for use as food
  3. noun
    a breakfast food prepared from grain
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    Pablum, pablum
    a soft form of cereal for infants
    hot cereal
    a cereal that is served hot
    cold cereal, dry cereal
    a cereal that is not heated before serving
    cornmeal mush, mush
    cornmeal boiled in water
    grits, hominy grits
    coarsely ground hulled corn boiled as a breakfast dish in the southern United States
    boiled or baked buckwheat
    sweet spiced porridge made from hulled wheat
    cereal made of especially rolled oats with dried fruits and nuts and honey or brown sugar
    raisin bran
    bran flakes with raisins
    corn flake
    crisp flake made from corn
    bran flake
    wheat flake including the bran
    crisp flake made from wheat
    puffed rice
    puffy rice kernels
    puffed wheat
    puffy wheat berries
    type of:
    breakfast food
    any food (especially cereal) usually served for breakfast
  4. adjective
    made of grain or relating to grain or the plants that produce it
    “a cereal beverage”
    cereal grasses”
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