lignum vitae


lig·​num vi·​tae ˌlig-nəm-ˈvī-tē How to pronounce lignum vitae (audio)
plural lignum vitaes
: the very hard heavy wood of any of several tropical American guaiacums
: a tree yielding lignum vitae

Examples of lignum vitae in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Many were carved from lignum vitae, one of the world’s hardest woods. Sean Kingsley, Smithsonian Magazine, 11 Jan. 2024 The scents are created using native flowers — such as hibiscus, lignum vitae, elderflower — from St. Martin, Aruba, St. Thomas and other islands. Kavita Daswani,, 3 Nov. 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lignum vitae.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


New Latin, literally, wood of life

First Known Use

1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of lignum vitae was in 1594

Dictionary Entries Near lignum vitae

Cite this Entry

“Lignum vitae.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Medical Definition

lignum vitae

lig·​num vi·​tae ˌlig-nəm-ˈvīt-ē How to pronounce lignum vitae (audio)
plural lignum vitaes
: any of several tropical American trees of the genus Guaiacum with very hard heavy wood
especially : either of two (G. officinale or G. sanctum) that are sources of guaiacum resin
: the wood of a lignum vitae

More from Merriam-Webster on lignum vitae

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