: 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

Examples of basil in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the buttermilk, olive oil, salt and basil. Bethany Thayer, Detroit Free Press, 13 July 2024 Consider these options: Make a caprese salad of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Nancy Lebrun, Verywell Health, 12 July 2024 Its mocktails are more 21st century: Try the Cherry Basil Smash, made of Michigan orchard cherries, agave nectar, local citrus juice and basil, or the Strawberry Mint Virgin Mojito ($11 each). Lois K. Solomon, Sun Sentinel, 8 July 2024 Other ways to add interest to your water include adding slices of lemon, cucumber, mint, or basil, which is packed with electrolytes to supercharge your hydration status. Hannah Coates, Vogue, 5 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for basil 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'basil.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 19 Jul. 2024.

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

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