c. 1200, "something added to food or drink to enhance the flavor, vegetable substance aromatic or pungent to the taste," also "a spice used as a medication or an alchemical ingredient," from Old French espice (Modern French épice), from Late Latin species (plural) "spices, goods, wares," in classical Latin "kind, sort" (see species). From c. 1300 as "an aromatic spice," also "spices as commodities;" from early 14c. as "a spice-bearing plant." Figurative sense of "attractive or enjoyable variation" is from 13c.; that of "slight touch or trace of something" is recorded from 1530s. Meaning "specimen, sample" is from 1790. Early druggists recognized four "types" of spices: saffron, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg.