or·​chi·​da·​ceous ˌȯr-kə-ˈdā-shəs How to pronounce orchidaceous (audio)
: of, relating to, or resembling the orchids

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In its sense first used by botanists in the 1830s, orchidaceous means "belonging to the family Orchidaceae"-that is, to the orchid family, a very large family of flowering plants. While the basic shape of an orchid is simple-three petals with, on many orchids, an enlarged middle petal-there is no such thing as a typical orchid. Orchids range in size from very tiny flowers on inch-high plants to flowers a foot across, and they grow in habitats from tropical rain forests to semideserts. But when people use orchidaceous as a synonym for "flashy" in phrases like "orchidaceous writing," "orchidaceous colors," and "orchidaceous ladies," it's the colorful, showy tropical species they have in mind-species which, as Jacob Breynius, a 17th-century German botanist, put it, "surely excite our greatest admiration."

Examples of orchidaceous in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Fantastical sets and costumes by Geoffrey Holder combine orchidaceous foliage out of a Henri Rousseau jungle with a Levantine hero and a Japanese villain. The New Yorker, 19 Feb. 2021 Stefano and Domenico looked to Donna Floria’s orchidaceous Belle Epoque beauty and famous clothes for aspects of their alta moda collection. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, 11 July 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'orchidaceous.' 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 Orchidaceae, family name (re-formation of earlier Orchideae, from orchid-, erroneously taken as the stem of Latin orchis "orchid" + -eae, feminine plural of Latin -eus -eous) + -ous — more at orchis

First Known Use

1838, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of orchidaceous was in 1838


Dictionary Entries Near orchidaceous

Cite this Entry

“Orchidaceous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orchidaceous. Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

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