noun, often attributive
\ ˈlēf How to pronounce leaf (audio) \
plural leaves\ ˈlēvz How to pronounce leaves (audio) \ also leafs\ ˈlēfs How to pronounce leafs (audio) \

Definition of leaf

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : a lateral (see lateral entry 1 sense 2) outgrowth from a plant stem that is typically a flattened expanded variably shaped greenish organ, constitutes a unit of the foliage, and functions primarily in food manufacture by photosynthesis
(2) : a modified leaf (such as a bract or sepal) primarily engaged in functions other than food manufacture
b(1) : foliage trees in full leaf
(2) : the leaves of a plant as an article of commerce
2 : something suggestive of a leaf: such as
a : a part of a book or folded sheet containing a page on each side
b(1) : a part (as of window shutters, folding doors, or gates) that slides or is hinged
(2) : the movable parts of a table top added a leaf to the table to accommodate more people
c(1) : a thin sheet or plate of any substance : lamina
(2) : metal (such as gold or silver) in sheets usually thinner than foil
(3) : one of the plates of a leaf spring


leafed; leafing; leafs

Definition of leaf (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to shoot out or produce leaves will leaf out in spring
2 : to turn over pages especially to browse or skim leaf through a book

transitive verb

: to turn over the pages of

Illustration of leaf

Illustration of leaf


forms of leaf 1a(1): 1 needle-shaped, 2 linear, 3 lanceolate, 4 elliptical, 5 ensiform, 6 oblong, 7 oblanceolate with acuminate tip, 8 ovate with acute tip, 9 obovate, 10 spatulate, 11 fiddle-shaped, 12 cuneate, 13 deltoid, 14 cordate, 15 reniform, 16 orbiculate, 17 runcinate, 18 lyrate, 19 peltate, 20 hastate, 21 sagittate, 22 odd-pinnate, 23 abruptly pinnate, 24 trifoliolate, 25, 26 palmate

In the meaning defined above

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Other Words from leaf


leafless \ ˈlēf-​ləs How to pronounce leafless (audio) \ adjective
leaflike \ ˈlēf-​ˌlīk How to pronounce leaflike (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for leaf

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of leaf in a Sentence

Noun I heard the rustle of the autumn leaves. a pile of dead leaves The trees drop their leaves in the fall, and new leaves grow again in the spring. The trees have not yet come into leaf. Verb we must have spent hours leafing through wallpaper books before we found something we both liked
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Ginkgo tree is a living fossil, with the earliest leaf fossils dating from 270 million years ago. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, "When will one of Louisville's oldest trees drop its leaves this fall? Guess and win big," 23 Oct. 2020 Yes, that's right, this could be the year consumption of romaine and other leaf lettuce finally surpasses that of head lettuce, which is mostly iceberg lettuce. Justin Fox, Star Tribune, "Americans turn over a new leaf, in the produce aisle," 23 Oct. 2020 Mid-October in the Buckeye state means leaf colors are truly popping. Sarah Brookbank, The Enquirer, "Ohio is officially at peak fall foliage coloring," 23 Oct. 2020 The new plant groupings are comparatively disorderly, host insects and birds, and change constantly with flowers, seed pods, and leaf colors constantly popping and fading. James S. Russell, New York Times, "Brooklyn Botanic Garden Turns Over a New Leaf," 22 Oct. 2020 Eggs look like clusters of tiny white barrels with black bands found on leaf undersides. Ellen Nibali, baltimoresun.com, "Garden Q&A: Kale-munching harlequin bugs and protecting strawberry plants through the winter," 22 Oct. 2020 Other possibilities would include leatherleaf mahonias, aucubas (for leaf color) or oakleaf hydrangeas. Neil Sperry, ExpressNews.com, "Neil Sperry: Petite crape myrtles excellent replacements for roses," 22 Oct. 2020 Bridges likes the detailing and shape of the 10-inch round brass olive leaf mirror ($58) and suggests using it in an entryway, on a powder-room wall or in a collection with other mirrors. Washington Post, "Shopping with the pros: Sheila Bridges’s favorite picks from Anthropologie," 22 Oct. 2020 Wingett received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters during his service in World War II. Daniella Genovese, Fox News, "'Band of Brothers' veteran Bill Wingett laid to rest Oregon," 21 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The township of Montclair, N.J., passed a nonbinding resolution in May urging a halt to leaf blower use during the Covid-19 crisis. Valerie Bauerlein And Jon Kamp, WSJ, "Seasonal Hazard for Working at Home: Leaf Blowers," 20 Oct. 2020 In France, timber trees and winter grains grow on the same land without competing because the trees leaf in summer and the wheat leafs out in the winter. Eric Toensmeier, Scientific American, "How Climate Change Strategies That Use Biomass Can Be More Realistic," 1 Aug. 2020 War buffs may get a kick out of images from the Pritzker Military Museum, while those hoping to learn more about some of history’s remarkable women can leaf through the pages provided by Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "One Hundred Museums Transformed Their Collections Into Free Coloring Pages," 4 Feb. 2020 The students leaf through the books and t-shirts to make their selections before walking home. oregonlive, "For Warm Springs students, distance learning hinged on the strength of connections, both human and technological," 14 June 2020 All have evolved the good sense to leaf out, blossom and set seed before the canopy puts them in the dark for good. John Gurda, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A balm for coronavirus anxiety: Milwaukee's wild places, where the rhythms of nature are steady as ever," 30 Apr. 2020 If trees are leafing out earlier, or the vegetation is denser, birds might seek higher song posts to avoid this interference, Dr. Moller suggested. Emily Anthes, New York Times, "The Sound of One Shrimp Snapping," 21 Apr. 2020 There are half cut off suckers visible in your photo and many of them are now branched and leafing out. oregonlive, "Suckers from grafted rose need a trim: Ask an expert," 22 Mar. 2020 Following a mild winter, flowers are blooming and trees are leafing out earlier than ever recorded across portions of the U.S., scientists announced this week. Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, "A record-early spring has sprung in some parts of the U.S., promising a rough allergy season," 7 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'leaf.' 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 leaf


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


1611, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for leaf


Middle English leef, from Old English lēaf; akin to Old High German loub leaf

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Time Traveler for leaf

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for leaf

Last Updated

26 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Leaf.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leaf. Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for leaf


How to pronounce leaf (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of leaf

: one of the flat and typically green parts of a plant that grow from a stem or twig
: a sheet of paper in a book
: a part that can be added to or removed from a table to change the size of its top surface


\ ˈlēf How to pronounce leaf (audio) \
plural leaves\ ˈlēvz \

Kids Definition of leaf

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : one of the usually flat green parts that grow from a plant stem and that functions mainly in making food by photosynthesis
2 : foliage The trees are in full leaf.
3 : a single sheet of a book containing a page on each side
4 : a part that can be added to or removed from a table top

Other Words from leaf

leafless \ ˈlēf-​ləs \ adjective
leaflike \ ˈlēf-​ˌlīk \ adjective


leafed; leafing

Kids Definition of leaf (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to grow leaves The trees will leaf out in the spring.
2 : to turn the pages of a book


\ ˈlēf How to pronounce leaf (audio) \

Medical Definition of leaf

: a thin layer or sheet of tissue the anterior leaf of the coronary ligament

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Comments on leaf

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