shortening is fat used for cooking. Although the term is broad enough to encompass all sorts of fats (including liquid oils), as commonly understood, shortenings tend to be solid or semisolid at room temperature, since only these fats will make a dough “short,” meaning friable, or easily crumbled. They may be derived from animal, vegetable, or compound substances. Shortening can be used as an ingredient (in butter cake or lard pie crusts, for instance) or as a cooking medium (for deep-fried doughnuts or fritters). The modern usage dates to the nineteenth century and is generally a North American term.