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 Basilius (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 There’s no better place to start than something that will immediately boost your food’s flavor with this kit from Urban Leaf for growing basil, parsley and cilantro. Katey Clifford, oregonlive, "October is Campus Sustainability Month: Be kind to the planet with these green products for the home," 1 Oct. 2020 Pret combines a sniff of indulgence (there is basil on the prosciutto; the granola has bite) with maximal efficiency and a dose of passive adrenaline. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, "The Future of the Office Lunch," 28 Sep. 2020 Lemon basil-poached lobster with 2017 Joseph Drouhin Puligny Montrachet. Marc Bona, cleveland, "StoneWater plans 5-course wine-Champagne pairing dinner," 19 Aug. 2020 And finally, some fresh basil adds a summery note as well as a bright pop of color. Washington Post, "Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Mozzarella Melts," 1 July 2020 Other compatible combinations include tomatoes, basil, and onions; leaf lettuce and peas or brassicas; carrots, onions, and radishes; and beets and celery. The Editors, Good Housekeeping, "Everything You Need to Know About Starting a Vegetable Garden," 28 May 2020 This dry shampoo includes essential oils like basil and peppermint that help to nourish and soothe the scalp. Akili King, Vogue, "14 of the Best Dry Shampoos to Stock Up on this Season," 29 Sep. 2020 Garnish the pasta with a squeeze of lemon juice, toasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese, basil leaves and extra-virgin olive oil., "Recipes for summer’s bounty: Mains," 16 Sep. 2020 The Sophia, the signature margherita pizza with mozzarella, tomato sauce, Parmesan, basil and extra virgin olive oil for $12 (small) or $20 (large). Rod Stafford Hagwood,, "How Sophia Loren (and baseball) inspired a new West Delray Beach pizzeria restaurant," 9 Sep. 2020

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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for basil

Last Updated

19 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Basil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for basil


How to pronounce Basil (audio) How to pronounce Basil (audio) How to pronounce Basil (audio)

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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