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 Basil (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 Swap out warm-season herbs, such as basil, for cool-season herbs, like dill and parsley. Nan Sterman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Oct. 2021 Soups such as tomato and basil, and asparagus and coriander. Matt Wake |, al, 1 Oct. 2021 Our basil aioli, our barbecue sauce, every single sauce in the restaurant, except the ranch and blue cheese, are made in house. Kristine M. Kierzek, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 30 Sep. 2021 Continue building the sandwiches, using half of the cheese and all of the pepperoncini, pistachios, basil, if using, and lemon zest, then top with the remaining bread, béchamel side up. Neha Prakash, Marie Claire, 16 Sep. 2021 Italian Burger is a dry-aged blend with portabella and cremini mushrooms, topped with soppressata, mozzarella, sweet roasted peppers and basil aioli. cleveland, 10 Sep. 2021 In its 2022 forecast, Farrow & Ball, a pricier British paint brand, tagged Breakfast Room Green (No.81), which is actually close to the color of my basil-pistachio vinaigrette. Marni Jameson,, 10 Sep. 2021 Roughly chop the tomatoes and any fresh herbs on hand, such as basil or parsley, and mince 1 large garlic clove. Casey Barber, CNN, 10 Sep. 2021 The salad is zapped with a lemon and basil dressing. Nick Rallo, Dallas News, 31 Aug. 2021

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

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Last Updated

20 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Basil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Oct. 2021.

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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

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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