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

flip, riffle, skim, thumb

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Examples of leaf in a Sentence


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.


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

Not so happy with the maintenance of picking up fuzz, leaves and twigs. Neil Sperry, ExpressNews.com, "Hollow, goop-filled tree needs an arborist’s advice," 30 Aug. 2019 Their diet consists of grass, tree bark, leaves and roots. Fox News, "Incredible images show elephant getting rescued from a 20-foot well in India," 30 Aug. 2019 Consider adding a protective top, like the Trane WeatherGuard, to keep leaves and other debris out of the unit. Graham Hiemstra, Popular Mechanics, "How to Get Your HVAC System Ready for Winter," 29 Aug. 2019 That means vertical farming can, for the time being, be profitable only for high-value, perishable produce, such as salad leaves and fancy herbs. The Economist, "The foody benefits of farming vertically," 29 Aug. 2019 Add sage leaves and cook stirring occasionally, until bubbles subside. The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping, "Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup," 28 Aug. 2019 Some samples contained mold, and others were diluted with stems and leaves. Anna Gunther, CBS News, "DEA says it will expand marijuana research, ending years of delay," 26 Aug. 2019 Moist tropical forests are distinguished by their canopies of interlocking leaves and branches that shelter creatures below from sun and wind, and by their incredible variety of animal and plant life. Mahita Gajanan, Time, "Environmentalists Have Been Warning About Amazon Fires for Decades. The Stakes Are Now Higher Than Ever," 23 Aug. 2019 Twigs, leaves and squirrel droppings can clog up the drains. courant.com, "Car Talk: Her Lincoln Town Car can’t weather the storms," 2 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Roses grown in containers should be watered deeply and less frequently, rather than more often with quick bursts of shallow water as our water is salty and our plants will otherwise be susceptible to leaf burn. Rita Perwich, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Water needs for roses rise with summer temperatures," 11 July 2019 In the spring the trees are leafing out earlier and in the fall the ragweed is lasting longer. Dave Epstein, BostonGlobe.com, "You’re not imagining it: The pollen increase is real, and it’s linked to climate change," 11 June 2019 For Clairemont’s Esther Erdell, 82, visiting Old Town is like leafing through a family photo album. Peter Rowe, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Spirit of (18)76: Old Town celebrates July 4 with a 19th century vibe," 5 July 2019 Suddenly, the trees have leafed out completely and the quiet suburban landscape is punctuated by a crystal blue sky. Randy Blaser, chicagotribune.com, "Column: Summer is here. You better enjoy it while it lasts.," 6 June 2019 Even without a cell phone, bosses can snub their employees by not giving them their full attention, whether that’s twirling a pen or leafing through other documents. Mary Hui, Washington Post, "Does your boss ‘phub’ you to focus on a smartphone? Science explains why that’s a stupid move," 4 Jan. 2018 Despite lacking text of any kind, this book told even a child that it was meant to be leafed through from start to finish. The New York Review of Books, "Joel Smith," 18 Apr. 2019 Vlogs rose to popularity out of viewers' desires to see someone's everyday life, but for Kylie that means leafing through closets of Alexander Wang and throwing expensive surprise birthday parties. Kathryn Lindsay, refinery29.com, "The 8 Least Relatable Things That Happen In Kylie Jenner's "Day In The Life" Vlog," 6 June 2019 Mortensen’s character, Tony, takes it on the trip and leafs through it several times. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Green Book builds a feel-good comedy atop an artifact of shameful segregation. Yikes.," 7 Jan. 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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Statistics for leaf

Last Updated

3 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for leaf

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

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More Definitions for leaf



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with leaf

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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