ba·​sil | \ ˈba-zəl How to pronounce basil (audio) , ˈbā- How to pronounce basil (audio) , -səl How to pronounce basil (audio) \

Definition of basil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : any of several aromatic herbs (genus Ocimum) of the mint family especially : sweet basil
2 : the dried or fresh leaves of a basil used especially as a seasoning


biographical name
Bas·​il | \ ˈbā-zəl How to pronounce Basil (audio) , ˈba-, -səl \
variants: or Basilius \ bə-​ˈsi-​lē-​əs How to pronounce Basil (audio) , -​ˈzi-​ \

Definition of Basil (Entry 2 of 2)

Saint circa 329–379 the Great church father; bishop of Caesarea

Examples of basil in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun To serve, spoon about 3/4 cup of the creamed spinach onto each serving plate, top each with a piece of chicken and garnish with basil leaves. Washington Post, "Creamed spinach gets promoted from side to star in this one-pan chicken skillet," 11 Mar. 2021 The white pizza menu includes the funghi topped with flat parsley, fresh basil, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and smoked gouda. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, "Supino Pizzeria, known for its thin-crust pizza, opens a second location in New Center," 26 Feb. 2021 Place corn, basil leaves, almonds, sage, garlic, salt, pepper, marjoram and thyme in bowl of food processor, fitted with blade. Dallas News, "6 creative pesto recipes, from mushroom and truffle oil to citrus and mint," 16 Apr. 2021 Add 2 cups lightly packed basil leaves in small handfuls, crushing them until no leaves remain. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Forget avocado toast. Have you tried avocado pesto?," 18 Mar. 2021 Bake the dish at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, then mix in fresh basil and cooked pasta. Lydia Wang,, "Is Feta Cheese Really Selling Out Thanks To This Viral TikTok Pasta Dish?," 11 Feb. 2021 So far, stars on the menu include the tomato basil, and sausage rapini pizzas. Anne Nickoloff, cleveland, "Slice of yum: 3 new pizza shops in Greater Cleveland," 30 Mar. 2021 Sprinkle over the fresh basil and a few more grounds of fresh pepper, if using, and serve with a wedge of lemon. Washington Post, "Cooking fish in parchment packets ensures moist, flavorful fillets without much fuss," 16 Mar. 2021 In a food processor, combine the basil, ½ cup of the Parmesan, the pistachios, olive oil, garlic, and lemon zest and juice. Dallas News, "3 essential recipes from Jake Cohen’s new ‘Jew-ish’ cookbook," 5 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'basil.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of basil


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for basil


Middle English basyl, basyle, shortening (perhaps by confusion with Middle French basile "basilisk") of Middle French basilic or its source, Medieval Latin basilicon, borrowed from Greek basilikón (for presumed basilikòn phytón "royal plant"), noun derivative from neuter of basilikós "royal" — more at basilica

Note: The word basilikón as a name for a plant or herb is marginally attested in ancient and early post-classical Greek, the usual word for what is presumed to be Ocimum basilicum in Greek being ṓkimon. The identity of a lákhanon basilikón ("royal herb") in the pseudo-Aristotelian De plantis (2nd century b.c.) is uncertain. The lexicon of Hesychius (5th-6th centuries a.d., incorporating much ancient material) glosses ṓkimon as "fragrant herb, called basilikón" ("botánē euṓdēs, tò legómenon basilikón").

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Time Traveler for basil

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The first known use of basil was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Basil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for basil



English Language Learners Definition of basil

: an herb that has a sweet smell and that is used in cooking


ba·​sil | \ ˈba-zəl How to pronounce basil (audio) , ˈbā- \

Kids Definition of basil

: a fragrant mint used in cooking

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More from Merriam-Webster on basil

Nglish: Translation of basil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of basil for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about basil

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