Margarine is a spread used for flavoring, baking, and cooking. It is most often used as a substitute for butter. Although originally made from animal fats, most margarine consumed today is made from vegetable oil. The foodstuff was originally named oleomargarine from Latin for oleum (olive oil) and Greek margarite (pearl indicating luster). The name was later shortened to margarine.
Margarine consists of a water-in-fat emulsion, with tiny droplets of water dispersed uniformly throughout a fat phase in a stable solid form. While butter is made from the butterfat of milk, modern margarine is made through more intensive processing of refined vegetable oil and water. In some US jurisdictions, margarine must have a minimum fat content of 80 percent (with a maximum of 16% water) to be labeled as such.
In the United States, the term “margarine” is used to describe “non-dairy spreads” with varying fat contents, and in some places in the United States, it is colloquially referred to as oleo, short for oleomargarine. In Britain and Australia, it can be referred to colloquially as marge.
Margarine can be used as an ingredient in other food products, such as pastries, doughnuts, cakes, and cookies.