Definition of scarlet pimpernel
1 : a European pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) naturalized in North America and having scarlet, white, or purplish flowers that close in cloudy weather
2 [Scarlet Pimpernel, assumed name of the hero of The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905), novel by Baroness Orczy] : a person who rescues others from mortal danger by smuggling them across a border
Did You Know?
In 1903, Hungarian-born playwright and novelist Baroness Emmuska Orczy introduced the world to Sir Percy Blakeney, ostensibly a foppish English aristocrat, but secretly a swashbuckling hero known as "The Scarlet Pimpernel" who rescued aristocrats from certain death in the French Revolution by smuggling them to England. In The Scarlet Pimpernel, Blakeney's character used a drawing of a small, red, star-shaped flower known in England as a "scarlet pimpernel" as a signature of his involvement in an escape. The popularity of Orczy's novel prompted English speakers to start using "scarlet pimpernel" for any daring hero who smuggled those in danger to a safe haven in another country. Today it is also sometimes used more broadly for a person who is daring, mysterious, or evasive.
First Known Use of scarlet pimpernel
Learn More about scarlet pimpernel
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about scarlet pimpernel
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up scarlet pimpernel? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).