nose·​gay | \ ˈnōz-ˌgā How to pronounce nosegay (audio) \

Definition of nosegay

: a small bunch of flowers : posy

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Nosegay is a homegrown word - that is, it originated in English. Fifteenth-century Middle English speakers joined "nose" (which meant then what it does today) with "gay" (which at the time meant "ornament"). That makes "nosegay" an appropriate term for a bunch of flowers, which is indeed an ornament that appeals to the nose. Today the word nosegay is especially common in the bridal business, where it usually refers to a specific type of bouquet: a round, tight bunch of flowers as opposed to a cascading bouquet or other type of arrangement. Occasionally, the word is used metaphorically for things that somehow resemble a bouquet. For example, a compact collection of enjoyably lighthearted short stories might be called "a nosegay of a book."

Examples of nosegay in a Sentence

a stately procession of bridesmaids holding small nosegays
Recent Examples on the Web For her 100th birthday lunch in her elegant Stanford White retirement community in Rye, New York, Simpson sported her later-in-life uniform, with her trademark pearls and a nosegay of fresh flowers worn as a bracelet. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Babs Simpson, a Former Vogue Editor Who Collaborated With Irving Penn, Has Died at 105," 7 Jan. 2019 Prince Albert’s grandmother gave Victoria a nosegay containing myrtle. Diana Pearl,, "Prince Harry Picked Flowers for Meghan Markle's Bouquet — Plus, the Sweet Tribute to Princess Diana," 19 May 2018 Debutantes, who carried nosegays of pink roses tied with a green ribbon, included First Maid Miss Morgan Thompson, Second Maid Miss Daijah Jeanmorie and debutantes Misses Kayla Caldwell, Tia Peck, Paris Vincent, and Michaela Zeno. Sue Strachan,, "Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority introduces its debutantes at 2018 cotillion," 5 Apr. 2018 The queen, wearing an electric blue coat and hat trimmed in black fur and holding a nosegay of daffodils, primroses, freesias, rosemary, thyme and ivy leaves, gave each recipient a red and a white purse. Maria Puente, USA TODAY, "Prince Philip skips annual pre-Easter service with queen, sparks health worries," 29 Mar. 2018 If the idea of a bouquet isn't totally your thing, opt for something small; the smallest clutch of blooms, in industry speak, is called a nosegay. Carrie Goldberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "4 Uncoventional Bridal Bouquet Ideas," 21 June 2017

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

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for nosegay

Middle English, from nose nose + gay ornament, literally, something gay, from gay

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The first known use of nosegay was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Nosegay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of nosegay

old-fashioned : a small bouquet of flowers

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Britannica English: Translation of nosegay for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about nosegay

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