hol·​ly ˈhä-lē How to pronounce holly (audio)
plural hollies
: 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
: the foliage or branches of the holly

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Dexter halls with boughs of holly... Woman's Day, 13 Sep. 2022 The arrival of the Christmas tree usually marks the kickoff of the White House's annual holiday festivities, with a flurry of volunteers hauling out the holly and working through the Thanksgiving holiday to spruce up the people's house into a winter wonderland. Betsy Klein, CNN, 22 Nov. 2021 Have a holly, Dolly Christmas, y'all! Andrea Wurzburger, PEOPLE.com, 16 Dec. 2020 Really, the holly? Gena Kaufman, Glamour, 2 Dec. 2020 Haul out the holly! Tierney Mcafee, Country Living, 30 Nov. 2020 There are part sun-lovers like Makino’s holly fern (2 feet tall), Japanese tassel fern (3 feet) and soft shield fern (to 4 1/2 feet). oregonlive, 26 Feb. 2023 Velez speaks a lot about kitsch, Americana, and other terms that seem Warhol holly-jolly, but her clothes are dark and even political, though more as a hovering menace than some kind of message of protest. Rachel Tashjian, Harper's BAZAAR, 15 Feb. 2023 American holly trees is listed as a Maryland’s Big Tree, a program sponsored by the state Department of Natural Resources Forest Service. James Whitlow, baltimoresun.com, 3 Sep. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'holly.' 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 holin, holly, from Old English holen; akin to Old High German hulis holly, Middle Irish cuilenn

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near holly

Cite this Entry

“Holly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/holly. Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


hol·​ly ˈhäl-ē How to pronounce holly (audio)
plural hollies
: either of two trees or shrubs of which one is found in the eastern U.S. and the other in Eurasia and which have evergreen leaves with spiny margins and usually bright red berries
: the leaves, berries, and branches of the holly

Medical Definition


see sea holly

More from Merriam-Webster on holly

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