hol·​ly | \ ˈhä-lē \
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

Just look at The Home Depot's new holly jolly selection of indoor and outdoor Christmas decorations. Taysha Murtaugh, Country Living, "Here's Your First Look at The Home Depot's Best New Christmas Decorations," 14 Oct. 2018 Carissa hollies are ideal change-outs for the hawthorns. Neil Sperry, star-telegram, "Overgrown shrubs? Thinning turfgrass? Here are solutions to common gardening struggles," 13 June 2018 Oakland or Mary Nell hollies would be two other choices. Neil Sperry, San Antonio Express-News, "Variegated cane not invasive, but should still be contained," 11 May 2018 The landscape is a wonderland of holly trees and stands of Native American beeches that have been untouched for centuries, gorgeous fields of wildflowers and, overhead, eagles, osprey and hawks. BostonGlobe.com, "How to do Cape Cod on a budget," 6 June 2018 My suggestion is always to use evergreen shrubs like hollies, nandinas, junipers and others as the backbone of your landscape, then use flowering shrubs as accents in strategic places, but not across the entire front of your house. Neil Sperry, star-telegram, "The garden of unreasonable expectations. It sounds like a Harry Potter book, but it's real | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 12 Apr. 2018 Be especially mindful of hollies, junipers and other plants that don’t wilt noticeably. Neil Sperry, star-telegram, "The 'natural consequences' of playing the 'if' game when gardening | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 10 May 2018 There is indeed an element of beauty to December in the northern climate, and the cabin-fever population is always looking for a chance to get outside after the holly is rolled out. Dan Moran, Lake County News-Sun, "Moran: Great America takes a smart gamble on launching 'Holiday in the Park'," 11 Apr. 2018 Unfortunately, this species of holly is highly susceptible to root rot in our area and frequently dies from this problem. Dan Gill, NOLA.com, "Keep these plants out of your South Louisiana garden," 17 Mar. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about holly

Statistics for holly

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for holly

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for holly



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 \
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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on holly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with holly

Spanish Central: Translation of holly

Nglish: Translation of holly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of holly for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about holly

Comments on holly

What made you want to look up holly? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


irregularly rounded

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!