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 Allowing the grass to grow longer allows for more photosynthetically active leaf area. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, "You're cutting the grass wrong. 3 steps to get it right from our garden columnist," 22 May 2020 Serve the patties on buns or lettuce leaves with slices of crisp cucumber, buttery avocado and a squirt of ketchup and/or hot sauce. Washington Post, "Shrimp Burgers With Kimchi," 21 May 2020 Petey, the main character, is a young green leaf who shares his treetop home with many friends. Ed Wittenberg, cleveland, "Children’s book author from Solon enjoys interpreting stories for kids," 20 May 2020 Don’t march through dry leaves like every other turkey hunter. Alex Robinson, Outdoor Life, "Get Ultra-Close to the Roost on Late-Season Turkey Hunts," 18 May 2020 Lacking accessible treatment, men devised remedies using instant soup, garlic, oranges, and peppermint leaves. Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker, "Will the Coronavirus Make Us Rethink Mass Incarceration?," 18 May 2020 There’s a long entry hall — its arched ceiling lined with carving — a curving grid and oak leaves. Judy Rose, Detroit Free Press, "This might be the grandest mansion ever built at Windmill Pointe," 16 May 2020 The hard shell also protects leaves from damage and gives them room to breathe. Christie Calucchia, Southern Living, "This Prepara Storage Container Triples the Life of Fresh Herbs," 13 May 2020 The estimated annual value of tendu leaf is Rs1,000 crore. Hridayesh Joshi, Quartz India, "India’s coronavirus lockdown has left its forest economy in the wilderness," 8 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 Aurore said, leafing through the local newspaper on the table. Zoey Poll, The New Yorker, "In France, Elder Care Comes with the Mail," 9 Oct. 2019 Now, in spring, grasses are lush green, oak trees are leafing out, and bursts of wildflowers glow purple and orange and red in the morning sun. Peter Fish, San Francisco Chronicle, "Best secrets of small-town Chico’s big city park," 16 Mar. 2018 All three are still dormant, although others in the area are fully leafed out. Neil Sperry, ExpressNews.com, "Neil Sperry: Cure for lanky hibiscus is a big trim, a new pot and some fertilizer," 16 Apr. 2020 Knuth methodically leafed through his family’s 2,000-page Funk & Wagnalls unabridged dictionary in the basement. Quanta Magazine, "The Computer Scientist Who Can’t Stop Telling Stories," 16 Apr. 2020 Hepatica: Look for this lavender-blue flower, which has six to 20 petals, in the woods before the trees leaf out, usually in April. Chelsey Lewis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Here are some Wisconsin wildflowers and wildlife to look for on your socially distanced walks this spring," 2 Apr. 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

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Leaf.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leaf. Accessed 2 Jun. 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

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