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 Leaf drop: There are several environmentally appropriate strategies to deal with the leaves from your oaks, sycamores, pecans, hackberries and other deciduous trees. Calvin Finch, ExpressNews.com, "Winter gardening issues facing San Antonio yards and what to do about them," 2 Jan. 2020 After a few days, Kachru goes to the garden and sees it is covered with round balls layered with green leaves. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "The best books Quartz India read in 2019," 29 Dec. 2019 Some composted manure mixed with the leaves/greens compost is fine. oregonlive, "Too much manure can make fruit trees overproduce. Ask an expert," 28 Dec. 2019 Bartender Kevon Schiessel started with rum that had been infused with Hawaiian mamaki tea leaves. Susanne Fowler, chicagotribune.com, "Bar hopping on Oahu in search of a tropical treasure: the best mai tai," 9 Dec. 2019 Which could lead to power outages from branches still filled with leaves, sagging under the weight of wet snow and falling onto power lines, Kuroski cautioned. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "First snow of the season forecast for southern Wisconsin late Monday," 27 Oct. 2019 The monarch butterflies that find shelter in California each winter could cling more easily to their spear-shaped leaves than those of native trees. The Economist, "Eucalyptus Road The long and tangled history of California’s eucalyptus trees," 18 Dec. 2019 Both plants released at least 40 airborne compounds as the caterpillars snacked on their leaves. Eva Frederick, Science | AAAS, "Sweet potato can warn neighbors of insect attacks," 12 Dec. 2019 Along the property’s stretch of the Middle River, thickets of false indigo tower overhead, their lower leaves wrapped in the thorny, protective embrace of blackberry shrubs. National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 6 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Others sit on couches, absent-mindedly leafing through magazines. Tariq Panja, New York Times, "Welcome to the Falcon Hospital. Please Take a Number.," 19 Dec. 2019 Nam and Longacre spent six months perfecting their spice mix, visiting the legendary Howlin’ Rays in Los Angeles for inspiration and leafing through Southern cookbooks. Janelle Bitker, SFChronicle.com, "Nashville hot chicken pop-up Hotbird finds permanent home in San Francisco," 1 Oct. 2019 At any rate, that’s the impression one gets while leafing through the 2019 edition of Purdue University’s Engineering Gift Guide. Michelle Z. Donahue, Smithsonian, "The Ten Best STEM Toys to Give as Gifts in 2019," 26 Nov. 2019 The canyon is filled with box elders that had not yet leafed out, and above us sandstone cliffs soared like skyscrapers. Los Angeles Times, "He was seeking custom-made boots. The journey led to a life deeply touched by love and death and leather," 22 Oct. 2019 With granddaughter Finnegan in tow, the Biden men sipped tea in a Confucian-style teahouse, leafed through books at local shops and treated themselves to mid-afternoon ice cream. Josh Lederman, NBC News, "Biden's trip to China with son Hunter in 2013 comes under new scrutiny," 2 Oct. 2019 But first, leaf it alone: Raking leaves again this fall? Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY, "Dems and GOP: In agreement?," 7 Oct. 2019 The oak in our yard leafed out late, then the leaves all turned brown fast in June and July, starting at the top. Ellen Nibali, baltimoresun.com, "Garden Q&A: Beware ivy-like wavyleaf basketgrass and why oak trees are in decline," 19 Sep. 2019 On her daughter’s last day of fifth grade this year at Kemp Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md., Angela Atwood-Moore joined other parents leafing through an old yearbook from when her child was in second grade. Jay Mathews, Washington Post, "Staff morale becomes a new school-rating tool. But does it work?," 24 Aug. 2019

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

8 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Leaf.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leaf. Accessed 21 January 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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More from Merriam-Webster on leaf

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for leaf

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with leaf

Spanish Central: Translation of leaf

Nglish: Translation of leaf for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of leaf for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about leaf

Comments on leaf

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


good-natured easy friendliness

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