: any of a division (Filicophyta) or class (Filicopsida) of flowerless spore-producing vascular plants having alternating sporophyte and gametophyte generations
especially : any of an order (Filicales) of homosporous plants possessing roots, stems, and leaflike fronds compare seed fern
fernlike adjective
ferny adjective

Examples of fern in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Keep this moisture-loving indoor fern happy by never letting the soil completely dry out between waterings. Savanna Bous, Better Homes & Gardens, 27 Nov. 2023 The green walls were thick with moss, flowers, and ferns. Alexandra Kleeman, Travel + Leisure, 29 Oct. 2023 Setting up picnic tables in the chilly autumn air is a great way to encourage family and friends to spend time outdoors. 20 Stylish and Stately Mossy green walls, wispy ferns, and bright orange pillows add just enough flair to take this stately porch through all the seasons. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 5 Sep. 2023 The name reflects the appearance of the leaves, which are tongue-shaped and part of a plant in the fern family. Allison Futterman, Discover Magazine, 10 Nov. 2023 Rainbow bull's-eyes float in our cups like latte ferns. Meredi Ortega, Scientific American, 10 Nov. 2023 During autumn and winter, the spores and fronds of several native fern species form a large part of the bird’s diet. Anne Pinto-Rodrigues, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 Sep. 2023 On Sunday, the model and actor stepped out for the Miu Miu Women's Tales short film event during Venice Days at the 80th Venice International Film Festival, wearing the brand's cashmere knit cardigan in fern green, with a pair of boy short briefs to match. Marisa Sullivan, Peoplemag, 4 Sep. 2023 The trees had epiphytes, ferns, bromeliads, and orchids running up their trunks, adding a furry, Dr. Seuss quality to them. John Bowe, Travel + Leisure, 18 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Old English fearn; akin to Old High German farn fern, Sanskrit parṇa wing, leaf

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fern was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near fern

Cite this Entry

“Fern.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fern. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: any of an order of vascular plants resembling seed plants in having root, stem, and leaflike fronds but reproducing by spores instead of by flowers and seeds
fernlike adjective
ferny adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on fern

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