: a small genus of North American herbs (family Labiatae) with opposite hairy leaves and purplish or bluish flowers in dense clusters

Word History


borrowed from New Latin, of unknown origin

Note: Name introduced by the French polymath Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840) in "Prodrome des nouveaux Genres de Plantes observés en 1817 et 1818 dans l'intérieur des États-Unis d'Amérique," Journal de Physique, de Chimie, d'Histoire Naturelle et des Arts, tome 89 (juillet, an 1819), p. 98. Like a number of other taxa coined by Rafinesque, the origin is obscure and not elucidated by the author. The initial bleph- suggests Greek blépharon "eyelid" or blepharís "eyelash," but the nature of -ilia remains unknown, and the semantic connection is not apparent from Rafinesque's description of the plant. Note that the International Plant Names Index refers the name to a review by Rafinesque of Thomas Nuttall's The Genera of North American Plants (1818) in The American Monthly Magazine and Critical Review, vol. 4, no. 3 (January, 1819), p. 190; this occurrence may have chronological priority, though it does not expand on either the plant or the name ("Monarda ciliata must form a new genus, which we call Blephilia, distinguished by an unequal calyx").

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Cite this Entry

“Blephilia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.

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