hol·​ly | \ ˈhä-lē How to pronounce holly (audio) \
plural hollies

Definition of holly

1 : any of a genus (Ilex of the family Aquifoliaceae, the holly family) of trees and shrubs especially : either of two (I. opaca of the eastern U.S. and I. aquifolium of Eurasia) with spiny-margined evergreen leaves and usually red berries often used for Christmas decorations
2 : the foliage or branches of the holly

Examples of holly in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Decorate your tree in green holly leaf lights ($11), red poinsettia bulbs ($11), or our favorite option—festive Christmas bird lights ($11). Emily Vanschmus, Better Homes & Gardens, "This Pretty Ceramic Christmas Tree Was Made for Cardinal Lovers," 28 Aug. 2020 Other excellent hollies include East Palatka, Dwarf Burford, Needle Point (also known as Willow Leaf), Wirt Winn, Savannah, Yaupon and Dwarf Yaupon. Howard Garrett, Dallas News, "Go green all year long with these great evergreen tree choices for North Texas," 4 Mar. 2020 The pretty red berries of the American holly (Ilex opaca) can certainly look inviting. Tim Macwelch, Outdoor Life, "13 Toxic Wild Plants That Look Like Food," 13 Aug. 2019 For example, consider the hybrid blue or Meserve hollies, a group of crosses between English holly and an Asian species. Beth Botts, chicagotribune.com, "How to grow holly for the winter holidays even in the Midwest," 7 Dec. 2019 Centuries ago, ancient Celtic people believed that holly plants brought beauty and good fortune in the middle of winter. Rebecca Norris, Country Living, "The History of Christmas Colors—and Why They're Red and Green—Is Actually Fascinating," 29 Oct. 2019 The new English lyrics were written to accompany a 16th-century Welsh melody, whose original words made no mention of holly or decorating. Anne Lawrence-mathers, Quartz, "Reinvention of Christmas decorations is a historical tradition," 24 Dec. 2019 Another option is Oregon grape-holly (Mahonia aquifolium). Beth Botts, chicagotribune.com, "How to grow holly for the winter holidays even in the Midwest," 7 Dec. 2019 If that hasn’t worked by this time next year, consider moving them to some other part of your landscape and using another type of plant, perhaps a holly in the shade. Neil Sperry, ExpressNews.com, "Purpleheart will freeze back but regrow in your San Antonio garden come spring," 5 Dec. 2019

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

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First Known Use of holly

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for holly

Middle English holin, holly, from Old English holen; akin to Old High German hulis holly, Middle Irish cuilenn

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Time Traveler for holly

Time Traveler

The first known use of holly was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Holly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/holly. Accessed 24 Nov. 2020.

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How to pronounce holly (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of holly

: a tree or bush with dark green leaves and bright red berries also : the branches of this plant which are used for decoration especially at Christmas


hol·​ly | \ ˈhä-lē How to pronounce holly (audio) \
plural hollies

Kids Definition of holly

: an evergreen tree or shrub that has shiny leaves with prickly edges and red berries


Medical Definition of holly

— see sea holly

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More from Merriam-Webster on holly

Nglish: Translation of holly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of holly for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about holly

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