cy·​cad ˈsī-kəd How to pronounce cycad (audio)
: any of an order (Cycadales) of dioecious cycadophytes that flourished especially during the Jurassic and are represented by four surviving families of palmlike tropical plants

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A cycad is a tropical palmlike evergreen plant. Cycads flourished especially during the Jurassic and are represented by four surviving families. Cycads have crowns of large, feathery compound leaves and cones at the ends of their branches. Some have tall, unbranched trunks; others have partially buried stems with swollen trunks. Slow-growing cycads are used as ornamental conservatory plants, but some survive outdoors in temperate regions. The stems of some cycads yield starch that is edible if thoroughly cooked. The young leaves and seeds of others also are edible.

Examples of cycad in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Among those special single specimen plants, most installed near the house, are several prehistoric and unusual plant varieties, including the sago palm; cycads, including Dioon, Encephalartos and Zamia; and the Queensland bottle tree. Nicole Sours Larson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Aug. 2023 In addition to necessitating an understanding of seasonality and growth cycles, bush foods may require unique processing and preparation, such as wild yams and cycad seeds, both of which are toxic unless first leached in water. Jessica Wynne Lockhart, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 Aug. 2023 Look for ancient cycad species, some of them extinct in the wild, and aloes with dramatic colors and shapes. Helen Purcell Montag, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 May 2023 Vast, grassy plains only spread about 36 million years later, so much of the low-growing groundcover of the Late Cretaceous was ferns, cycads and similar plants. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Mar. 2023 The nodosaur specifically ate the soft leaves of certain ferns and largely neglected common cycad and conifer leaves. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 2 June 2020 Several cycad species have very low genetic diversity, as do the insects that pollinate them, like weevils. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 20 Oct. 2011 College analyzed cycad seeds and focused on a compound in them, BMAA. Kathleen McAuliffe, Discover Magazine, 21 July 2011 Life’s persistence connects us across time, to the early ancestors of mammals that lurked among the cycad trees of Mongolia some 300 million years ago (see page 44). Corey S Powell, Discover Magazine, 25 Sep. 2012 See More

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

Word History


New Latin Cycad-, Cycas, genus name, from Greek kykas, manuscript variant of koïkas, accusative plural of koïx, a kind of palm

First Known Use

1845, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cycad was in 1845

Dictionary Entries Near cycad

Cite this Entry

“Cycad.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


cy·​cad ˈsī-kəd How to pronounce cycad (audio)
: a tropical palmlike evergreen plant that is a gymnosperm

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