er·​i·​ca ˈer-i-kə How to pronounce erica (audio)
: any of a large genus (Erica) of evergreen chiefly African plants of the heath family ranging from low shrubs to small trees

Word History


borrowed from New Latin, going back to Latin erīcē, erīca "the heath plant Erica arborea or a related species," borrowed from Greek ereíkē, of uncertain origin

Note: Assuming that Greek ereíkē goes back to *wereikā, it must bear some relationship to a group of words attested in Celtic and Balto-Slavic: Old Irish froich "heather, low scrub on moorland," Welsh grug "heather, the heath plant Calluna vulgaris," Gaulish *wroik- in the divine name Matres Uroicae, all going back to Celtic *u̯roi̯k- "heather"; Russian véresk, véres "heather," Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian vrȉjes, Polish wrzos (< Slavic *vêrsŭ); Lithuanian vìržis "heather," Latvian vir̂zis, vìrsis (for further attested forms see R. Derksen, Etymological Dictionary of the Baltic Inherited Lexicon, Brill, 2015). Given the differences in vocalism and the uncertain nature of the final stop, it is not possible to reconstruct a common etymon, and it has been suggested that the words were borrowed, perhaps independently, from a non-Indo-European source. See also briar entry 2.

First Known Use

1826, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of erica was in 1826

Dictionary Entries Near erica

Cite this Entry

“Erica.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

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