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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Taste for seasoning, add the basil leaves, and remove from the heat. Jennifer Mcclellan, USA TODAY, 22 Dec. 2022 Then, without completely filling the mortar, add a few pinches of salt and the basil leaves. Janelle Davis, CNN, 30 Oct. 2022 Feel free to substitute pine nuts or pecans for the walnuts, or fresh basil leaves for the parsley; the recipe is very forgiving. Dallas News, 25 Oct. 2022 For the entire month of October, the restaurant will serve up a Strawberry and Thai Basil Mojito featuring Diplomatico Blanco Rum, lime juice, fresh strawberries, and Thai basil leaves. Aly Walansky, Forbes, 11 Oct. 2022 Big Seven Travel recommended ordering the Detroiter with its tomato-basil sauce and topped with parmesan, spices and pepperoni. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, 30 Dec. 2022 Garnish with a fresh basil leaf and blood orange rind. Jais Tollette, USA TODAY, 28 Dec. 2022 At the Barber’s has top notes of basil accord, black pepper essence and bigarade oil (the latter is bitter orange leaf oil, which has a green and subtle floral aroma). Grooming Playbook, The Salt Lake Tribune, 19 Dec. 2022 Next was a tomato perilla salad with burrata, roe, and a basil sorbet. The Bon Appétit Staff & Contributors, Bon Appétit, 16 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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").

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near basil

Cite this Entry

“Basil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


: any of several plants of the mint family
especially : sweet basil

Biographical Definition


biographical name

Bas·​il ˈbā-zəl How to pronounce Basil (audio)
variants or Basilius
Saint circa 329–379 the Great church father; bishop of Caesarea

More from Merriam-Webster on basil

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