Seaweed common names: Laver

There are many names for commonly consumed seaweeds. However, the species they refer to vary by region and culture. We will cover some of the most commonly used names for seaweeds, and review the differences between connotation and denotation. This series will review some of the most common common-names in use.

Previous posts include: Nori, Wakame


Laver, Latin for water plant, was adopted by the English some time in the 16th century. In Wales a popular dish was known as laverbread or bara lawr. To make laverbread, thin sheet like algae were collected from the rocky shores, boiled, pureed, then mixed with oats and fried. It was this popular dish that gave laver its current meaning: thin sheet like algae.

Today laver is liberally used to define edible seaweeds, but more specifically thin algae. Color adjectives became common to separate types of laver, green laver (Ulva sp.), purple laver (Pyropia sp. or Porphyra sp.).

Laver in the marketplace is considered a synonym of zicai (Chinese: 紫菜; pinyinZǐcài) in China, nori (海苔) in Japan, and gim (김) in Korea.