Did You Know?
In its sense first used by botanists in the 1830s, orchidaceous means "belonging to the family Orchidaceae"-that is, to the orchid family, a very large family of flowering plants. While the basic shape of an orchid is simple-three petals with, on many orchids, an enlarged middle petal-there is no such thing as a typical orchid. Orchids range in size from very tiny flowers on inch-high plants to flowers a foot across, and they grow in habitats from tropical rain forests to semideserts. But when people use orchidaceous as a synonym for "flashy" in phrases like "orchidaceous writing," "orchidaceous colors," and "orchidaceous ladies," it's the colorful, showy tropical species they have in mind-species which, as Jacob Breynius, a 17th-century German botanist, put it, "surely excite our greatest admiration."
Origin of orchidaceous
New Latin Orchidaceae, family name, from Orchis
First Known Use: 1838
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