noun (1)
bri·​ar | \ ˈbrī(-ə)r How to pronounce briar (audio) \
variants: or less commonly brier
plural briars also briers

Definition of briar

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a plant (such as a rose, blackberry, or greenbrier) having a usually woody and thorny or prickly stem a thicket of briars … head up an almost invisible trail along the left bank, through young pines and briars.— Robert F. Jones — see also briar patch
2a : a mass of briars … threading his way with perfect skill between tree-trunks, jumping over bush and briar and the smaller streams …— C. S. Lewis … volunteers methodically searching through the briar and trees …— Roy Bragg
b : a branch or twig of a briar With my pair of brush cutters that I always carried I cut away enough of the long briars to provide an opening for me to sit comfortably in.— Jean Solbert


noun (2)
variants: or briar pipe
plural briars or briar pipes

Definition of briar (Entry 2 of 2)

: a tobacco pipe made from a woody root outgrowth of a shrub-like Mediterranean heath (Erica arborea) He grinned again and disappeared in a great cloud of pipe smoke. I pulled out my briar and joined him.— Marshall Harrison Spelling extracts a black briar pipe from his dinner jacket, draws his courtiers closer and says in a tiny voice, "I hate parties. What am I doing here?"— Mary Murphy

Other Words from briar

Noun (1)

briary \ ˈbrī(-​ə)r-​ē How to pronounce briar (audio) \ adjective

First Known Use of briar

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1882, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for briar

Noun (1)

Middle English brer, brere, going back to Old English brēr, brǣr, of uncertain origin

Note: The noun briar belongs to a small set of words in which Middle English ę̄ has been raised to ī, whence [ai] in present-day English. These words are all, with the exception of briar, of French origin: friar, quire entry 1, choir entry 1, contrive, umpire entry 1, dice. See hypothesized explanations of this change in E. J. Dobson, English Pronunciation 1500-1700, 2nd edition, vol. 2, pp. 655-58.

Noun (2)

short for briar pipe, from briar "wood of the heath plant Erica arborea," borrowed (with conformation to briar entry 1) from French bruyère "the heath plant Erica arborea," going back to Old French bruiere, bruere "moorland covered with heath, the heath plant Erica arborea," going back to Vulgar Latin *brūcāria, from *brūcus "heath plant" (borrowed from Gaulish *wroikos) + Latin -āria -ary entry 1 — more at erica

Note: The meaning of the derivative *brūcāria must initially have been "place covered with *brūcus," but early on in Old French it was applied to the plant itself. The simplex *brūcus is attested as Old Occitan bruc, bru, breu, Catalan bruc, Upper Italian (Piedmont) brü, (Milan) brüg. A tenth-century botanical vocabulary (see Corpus glossariorum Latinorum vol. 3, p. 587) has the gloss brucus : ramnus [Greek rhámnos "thorny shrub"]. The treatment of the diphthong (*oi > ) in the passage from Celtic to Vulgar Latin is idiosyncratic; it seems unlikely to have any connection to the monophthongization of oe (> ū) in classical Latin.

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The first known use of briar was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Briar.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for briar


variants: also brier \ ˈbrī-​ər \

Kids Definition of briar

: a plant (as the rose or blackberry) with a thorny or prickly stem

More from Merriam-Webster on briar

Nglish: Translation of briar for Spanish Speakers


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