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noun (1)

col·​um·​bine ˈkä-ləm-ˌbīn How to pronounce columbine (audio)
: any of a genus (Aquilegia) of plants of the buttercup family with irregular showy spurred flowers: such as
: a red-flowered plant (A. canadensis) of eastern North America
: a blue-flowered plant (A. caerulea) of the Rocky Mountains

Illustration of columbine

Illustration of columbine
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noun (2)

Col·​um·​bine ˈkä-ləm-ˌbīn How to pronounce Columbine (audio)
: the saucy sweetheart of Harlequin in comedy and pantomime

Examples of columbine in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The candidates: wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis, of Brooklyn), pinxter azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides, of Staten Island), spicebush (Lindera benzoin, of the Bronx), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa, of Manhattan), and the giant sunflower (Helianthus giganteus, of Queens). Adam Iscoe, The New Yorker, 25 Sep. 2023 Ironweed, bergamot, prairie blazingstar, tall Joe Pye weed, Ohio goldenrod and columbine are some of the flowers featured. Jennifer Rude Klett, Journal Sentinel, 20 Apr. 2023 Some of these flowering plants include bee balms, columbine flowers, daylilies, lupines and petunias. Victoria Moorwood, The Enquirer, 10 Apr. 2023 The Colorado blue columbine is Colorado's state flower. Olivia Munson, USA TODAY, 5 Feb. 2023 LoPresti studied columbine plants growing in a California reserve to learn more. Elizabeth Preston, Discover Magazine, 21 July 2015 One of these plants is the serpentine columbine, or Aquilegia eximia. Elizabeth Preston, Discover Magazine, 21 July 2015 These include columbine, bee balm, blanket flower, campanula, lavender, peonies, salvia, speedwell, and tickseed. Arricca Elin Sansone, Country Living, 8 Nov. 2022 Good native flowers to consider include wild columbine, wild bergamot, pale purple coneflower, asters and goldenrods, Steinhauer said. Jennifer Rude Klett, Journal Sentinel, 18 Aug. 2022 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1719, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near columbine

Cite this Entry

“Columbine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


col·​um·​bine ˈkäl-əm-ˌbīn How to pronounce columbine (audio)
: any of a genus of plants that are related to the buttercups and have showy flowers with five petals of which each usually has a long hollow spur

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