noun (1)
col·​um·​bine | \ ˈkä-ləm-ˌbīn How to pronounce columbine (audio) \

Definition of columbine

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: any of a genus (Aquilegia) of plants of the buttercup family with irregular showy spurred flowers: such as
a : a red-flowered plant (A. canadensis) of eastern North America
b : a blue-flowered plant (A. caerulea) of the Rocky Mountains


noun (2)
Col·​um·​bine | \ ˈkä-ləm-ˌbīn How to pronounce Columbine (audio) , -ˌbēn \

Definition of Columbine (Entry 2 of 2)

: the saucy sweetheart of Harlequin in comedy and pantomime

Illustration of columbine

Illustration of columbine

Noun (1)

columbine a

In the meaning defined above

Examples of columbine in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Wildflowers found at various elevations include mountain shooting star, Western columbine, Elephant’s Head, and slim larkspur. J.d. Simkins, Sunset Magazine, 26 Apr. 2022 While the native columbine – Aquilegia canadensis produces red and yellow blooms, there are an abundance of color choices in the hybrid columbines, all of which are early, cool season perennials in the ranunculus or buttercup family. Arkansas Online, 28 Mar. 2022 Seeds of most columbine species do not require cold in order to germinate, but hot soil temperatures should be avoided. oregonlive, 2 Jan. 2022 On a weekend in July, butterflies fluttered around alpine wildflowers near Hope as people hiked past patches of red and yellow western columbine and brightly colored dwarf fireweed. Emily Mesner, Anchorage Daily News, 24 July 2021 Native columbine, Solomon seal, creeping phlox and wild geranium are not far behind. Cori Brown,, 17 Apr. 2021 This group primarily includes hollyhock, delphinium, columbine and foxglove. Dan Gill,, 25 Nov. 2020 The McHenrys’ own home garden has grown steadily over the past decade to include a wide array of pollinator and ornamental plants, including lavender, yarrow, fleece-flower, thistle, baptisia, lilies, geraniums and columbine. Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune, 16 Oct. 2020 The Native Demonstration Garden blooms with showy flowers, such as Desert Four O’Clock, Rocky Mountain Penstemon, and yellow columbine, which will give you practical ideas for your own native plant garden. Jeanine Barone, The Know, 23 Feb. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'columbine.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of columbine

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1719, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for columbine

Noun (1)

Middle English columbyne, calombin, calobyn, borrowed from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French columbine, borrowed from Medieval Latin columbīna (perhaps originally as modifying herba "small plant, herb"), noun derivative from feminine of Latin columbīnus "of a dove or pigeon, dove-colored," from columba "dove, pigeon" + -īnus -ine entry 1; columba akin to Old Church Slavic golǫbĭ "dove, pigeon," Russian gólubʼ, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian gȍlūb, Greek kólymbos, kolymbás, kolymbís "the little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)," all perhaps of substratal origin

Note: The name columbīna supposedly alludes to the five petals of the inverted flower of Aquilegia vulgaris, said to resemble five doves clustered together; this has the look of an after-the-fact explanation, however. — The interrelationship of the Latin, Greek and Slavic words is a perhaps insoluble puzzle. It has been assumed that the initial col-/gol- of the Latin and Slavic words describes a color, presumably a shade of blue, and that -b- continues an Indo-European suffix *-bho- of color and animal names. W.B. Lockwood ("Latin columba, palumbēs, Greek κόλυμβος," Historische Sprachforschung, Band 103 [1990], pp. 261-63) compares Greek ellós, hellós "young deer, fawn" (from *elnós) beside élaphos "red deer (Cervus elaphus)," but as the base here is probably an original n-stem *h1el-en- with evidence in a number of other Indo-European languages (see elk), the internal vowel-nasal sequence in columba and golǫbĭ is not really accounted for. The Slavic words have been compared with Lithuanian gelumbė̃̃ "rather thick machine-made woolen fabric" (originally dove-colored, i.e., blue or blue-gray?) and less likely with gul̃bė "swan," though these hardly illuminate. (Old Prussian golimban "blue" may be a loan from Slavic.) Lockwood (op. cit.) rejects the relevance of Greek kólymbos on the grounds that names for the grebe in languages generally are based on their diving habits, not on color words. The resemblance of kólymbos to the Latin and Slavic words is nevertheless inescapable, and the presence of -b- rather -ph- in the putative suffix would rule out any connection with Indo-European *-bho-. R. Beekes (Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009), based on the variants kolýmbaina/kolýbdaina as the name for a kind of crab, believes the word is of pre-Greek substratal origin. If, pace Lockwood, kólybos is of any relevance to columba and golǫbĭ, a European substratum might be behind all three.

Noun (2)

Italian Colombina

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The first known use of columbine was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

10 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Columbine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for columbine


col·​um·​bine | \ ˈkä-ləm-ˌbīn How to pronounce columbine (audio) \

Kids Definition of columbine

: a plant that has leaves with three parts and showy flowers usually with five petals that are thin and pointed

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