Meringues are made in several styles, and each goes by a few different names. These are the classics.
A Swiss meringue with finely chopped almonds or hazelnuts folded into it. Also known as a japonaise meringue, dacquoise is traditionally piped into spiraled rounds and then baked to form cake layers.
Also called cold or simple meringue. After the egg whites are whipped to soft peaks with a small amount of sugar, the remaining sugar is folded in gently. French meringue is the lightest and most fragile of all meringues and must always be baked or incorporated into a batter and then cooked. Excellent for lightening batters and topping desserts.
A dense, stable meringue that is extremely smooth and shiny, created by slowly pouring hot sugar syrup into the egg whites during whipping. When baked, it has a more melting texture than the other meringues. Since it has been cooked by the hot sugar syrup, Italian meringue may be served with no further cooking. Ideal spread on filled pies and folded into puddings.
Also known as warm or cooked meringue, since the sugar (usually confectioners') and egg whites are beaten over hot water to dissolve the sugar completely and increase the height of the egg foam. It is a sturdy meringue and can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Used in icings and decorations.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion: The A to Z Guide to Everyday Cooking, Equipment and Ingredients (Time-Life Books, 2000)