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Earthy vs. earthly

Earthly and earthy were originally synonyms, but the adjectives have undergone differentiation over time. Today, earthly means of, relating to, or characteristic of the earth (often as opposed to heavenly or divine). Earthy means (1) plain, (2) natural, or (3) indecent or coarse. Food and wine writers love using earthy to describe plain flavors that balance extremes.

Examples

Earthly

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Walk through the big red god gates and you leave the earthly world behind, entering a world where the gods and Kinjo’s staff treat you right. [Swerve Magazine (link now dead)]

Given our readiness to demand earthly justice, why do we object to the idea of absolute, divine justice in hell? [The Guardian]

In fact, low doses of atomic radiation are a natural part of the earthly environment. [Chicago Tribune]

Earthy

A little green bell pepper adds an earthy, vegetal note, and peanut butter tempers the heat imparted by a serrano pepper and dried chile flakes. [SFGate.com]

The brown bar got its name from the earthy hue given to the walls by years of cigarette smoke. [Sydney Morning Herald]

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