Definition of basil
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
Origin and Etymology of basil
Middle English basyl, basyle, shortening (perhaps by confusion with Medieval French basile “basilisk”) of Medieval 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 ◆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”).
First Known Use: 15th century
BASIL Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of basil for English Language Learners
: an herb that has a sweet smell and that is used in cooking
BASIL Defined for Kids
Definition of basil for Students
: a fragrant mint used in cooking
Seen and Heard
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