acan·​thus | \ ə-ˈkan(t)-thəs How to pronounce acanthus (audio) \
plural acanthus

Definition of acanthus

1 : any of a genus (Acanthus of the family Acanthaceae, the acanthus family) of prickly perennial herbs chiefly of the Mediterranean region
2 : an ornamentation (as in a Corinthian capital) representing or suggesting the leaves of the acanthus

Illustration of acanthus

Illustration of acanthus

acanthus 2

Examples of acanthus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Hillsides of unruly acanthus — nature's template for Corinthian columns — precede the Domus Augustana. Washington Post, "Rome’s seven hills offer seven green respites from summer’s crowds," 12 July 2019 Instead of angels and saints, there were soldiers beheading one another; instead of Madonnas and Christs, there were pregnant women sprouting from acanthus buds. Junot Díaz, The New Yorker, "The Hunt for Mexico’s Heirloom Beans," 17 Apr. 2018 The acanthus leaves on the column have remained consistent over millennia and, over time, have come to represent more than just a sturdy plant. Phil Edwards, Vox, "Why old buildings use the same leaf design on columns," 28 Mar. 2018 The bezels on each center stone are composed of acanthus leaves sculpted in gold. Stellene Volandes, Town & Country, "Dior's Latest Fine Jewelry Collection Is Inspired By Royalty's Hidden Secrets," 6 Mar. 2018 The native black walnut, darkened with lamp black and oiled with linseed oil, was carved with life-like birds, flowers and acanthus leaves that can be seen on so much of their work. Janelle Gelfand,, "W. Roger Fry, lawyer who loved nature and carvings, dead at 77," 5 May 2017

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

See More

First Known Use of acanthus

1551, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for acanthus

borrowed from Latin, borrowed from Greek ákanthos, a plant of the genus Acanthus (as A. mollis or A. spinosus), masculine derivative of ákanthă "thorn, prickle, thorny plant, spine (of a fish), backbone," probably of pre-Greek substratal origin

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about acanthus

Time Traveler for acanthus

Time Traveler

The first known use of acanthus was in 1551

See more words from the same year

Statistics for acanthus

Cite this Entry

“Acanthus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on acanthus

Spanish Central: Translation of acanthus

Nglish: Translation of acanthus for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about acanthus

Comments on acanthus

What made you want to look up acanthus? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!