Why the Name 'Kaffir Lime' Is Wildly Offensive to Many - Modern Farmer

Why the Name ‘Kaffir Lime’ Is Wildly Offensive to Many

Kaffir limes are quickly becoming popular in North America, but with the newfound popularity comes a serious problem.


Or so says Veronica Vinje, a master’s student in Intercultural and International Communications at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia, the woman behind the @KaffirNoMore‘s Twitter campaign, an initiative to rename the kaffir lime (henceforth referred to as the k-lime) because of the racist nature of the k-word.

The k-word ”“ a term that comes from the Arabic word kafir, meaning non-believer or infidel ”“ is a highly offensive, even legally actionable, racial slur in South Africa. However, as Vinje states on the Twitter account, the @KaffirNoMore campaign is not about the history of the term, but removing the word from our vocabulary before it becomes totally engrained.

Vinje says there’s no reason why we shouldn’t enjoy this imported treat, but there’s no reason to import the offensive name as well. This of course brings up the issue of what to call this disputed fruit, a question that Roger Mooking, celebrity chef and host of the Cooking Channel’s, Man Fire Food, says has an obvious answer.

In Southeast Asia, where the fruit originates, it’s called Makrut, a perfectly viable option for North American gourmands.

He says in Southeast Asia, where the fruit originates, it’s called Makrut, a perfectly viable option for North American gourmands.

“There are all kinds of names for it, like Makrut or even lime leaves – that’s what I used to call it when I ordered it in my kitchens,” says Mooking. “I’ve been telling people in the industry for years that we need to change the name, but when you get an order list it’s always listed as a k-lime. I think for real change to happen it needs to come from the distribution side.”

Mooking says he first learned about the pejorative history of the word when he worked in the kitchen alongside a man from South Africa. After meeting the man he became intrigued with South African history and ended up stumbling upon the derogatory word while reading up about the nation.

“I recognized the word from placing orders in the kitchen, that’s when it hit me that we’ve been unknowingly using this racist term for a harmless fruit.”

Although the fruit may be harmless (and tasty), the word is not, and Vinje thinks the sooner we can rid ourselves of it the better off we’ll be.

Leave a Reply

12 Comment threads
7 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
16 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Golly, so glad to see that assholery isn’t dead in the comments section here. I’ve so missed it in the rest of the Internet where everyone respects others and tries not to offend when asked. 😐


I vote it be treated in like manner to the term Oriental; when used to describe a rug or some other object whose origin of manufacture is ‘the Orient’ then it’s acceptable, but otherwise referring to a person is fairly widely inadvisable by most standards. Negro is also often used in English as a slur, but in Spanish it’s just the ordinary word for black. Should Spanish therefore alter everything that calls something black, to avoid using the slur from a DIFFERENT language? No. That’s just silly. If you’re talking about a lime, you’re not referring to a person. Is… Read more »


@K-schwartz: just because _I_ don’t take offense (and had no idea the word was offensive at all) doesn’t make it any better for those who do. My grandma used to call macadamia nuts ‘niggertoes’, should we re-adopt that name?
Using the terms Thai lime or Makrut (magroot) lime is an easy solution. If you are afraid of not being understood, mispronouncing the word as kuhf-EER at least lends credence to the idea that you mean nothing derogatory by using it.


According to Wikipedia, the word is also used without any offensive connotations to refer to the Sri Lankan Kaffirs, an ethnic group descended from Portugese and African immigrants. So clearly not everyone everywhere considers it offensive. It is simply down to an accident of wildy divergent etymologies that may or may not even have a common origin. (Also, the “K-word” was not generally considered offensive even in S Africa until the mid 20th century.) That said, it seems natural that people touched by the ugly racist strife in South Africa that persists today would feel uncomfortable using the word simply… Read more »

Jennifer Stanley

I’m unclear. Who is being offended by being called kafir”? The limes? Why is it racist” to call a lime a non-believer? It has nothing to do with race but belief. And this is quite different in kind from using racial slurs such as `N-toes.” All it might imply if it implies at all (which I doubt) is that the limes haven’t accepted Islam. There are a lot of problems in the world, but I can’t see that this is one of them.

[…] Tum Yum pizza, has distinctive hot and sour notes which derive from its ingredients of lemongrass, makrut lime, fish sauce, and crushed red peppers. The Tum Yum is completed by a perfect finishing […]

Dophu nammgyel

I would like to learn more on modern agriculture farming

Kaffir Schwartz

Or, get over yourself? I’m not using it in hate, then it isn’t a negative thing. This is getting ridiculous.


If you are not a Muslim, then you are a Kaffir. The word is indeed considered a very derogatory term within Islam, because the Kaffir is considered exceptionally evil for his/her rejection of Mohammed as a true prophet of God and Islam as the only true religion. Non-Muslims, if they really believe that their assessment of Islam is indeed correct, ought to be proud to be called a Kaffir. Afterall, the British don’t get all offended by the term “Limey”, and neither should the confident Kaffir. In fact I think we should all go out and buy a crate of… Read more »

Ron Roland

There is one GOOD reason to use the kaffir word, and that is to discourage those who want to come into our great, free, and wealthy United States of America, then divide and rearrange it in their own perversions, to stay away.
No one is forcing anyone to come to America. If you don’t like our way of life, don’t come. But if you come – legally – don’t come thinking you can bring all your hate and warfare with you, we already have enough ingrates in this country trying to destroy it from within.

Farm Favorites
Read the latest reviews on our favorite products.
Immigrants Feed America

Immigrants Feed America t-shirts are back – find them at the Modern Farmers Market

Things We Love: AKUA Kelp Jerky

If you told me there was a jerky snack made out of kelp - yes,... (more)

Things We Love: CleverMade Snapbasket Cooler

It can keep up to 50 cans chilled for up to 36 hours and collapses... (more)

Things We Love: Republic of Tea Daily Greens Single Sips

It's like green juice: but way easier.

More shopping