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 This recipe recommends basil, which will round out the flavors for those who seek the familiar pesto of yore. Beth Segal, cleveland, "Lettuce 2.0: In and out of the salad bowl," 16 June 2020 Try cantaloupe dressed with a peach agrodolce and served with blueberries and basil. Saveur Editors, Saveur, "Vegetarian Recipes For When You Just Don’t Want Meat," 30 July 2018 From senior adults exercising in the Great Age Movement to children using coffee filters to plant basil, people of all ages can learn from The Health Museum At Home Live Labs on Facebook Live. Tracy Maness, Houston Chronicle, "The Health Museum’s Live Labs promote health amid COVID-19," 17 June 2020 Osso is currently slinging a five-pizza menu, anchored by a straight-up margherita, blessed with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, a little lilt of basil and plenty of olive oil. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "Looking for new dining options? Here are 3 brand new metro Phoenix restaurants," 7 June 2020 Tomatoes are paired with basil, the smell of which is known to confuse pests. Grace Haynes, Southern Living, "Kelly Smith-Trimble Strays from Traditional Planting Methods in Her Tennessee Garden," 5 June 2020 Other benefits: It's topped with tomatoes and basil and is high in protein. Maggie O'neill,, "The 5 Best Frozen Pizzas, According to a Nutritionist," 1 June 2020 Finely chop cilantro, jalapeno, basil, mint and garlic and place in a bowl. cleveland, "Fresh, flavorful herbs are always at the ready in a kitchen garden," 1 June 2020 Although your initial kit includes three basil pods, other herb and flower varieties (rosemary, thyme, tomato, and lavender, among others) are also available for purchase. Lindsey Olander, Condé Nast Traveler, "Create An Indoor Garden at Home With These Plants and Plant Accessories," 1 June 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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Last Updated

3 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Basil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with basil

Spanish Central: Translation of basil

Nglish: Translation of basil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of basil for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about basil

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