adjective pe·ren·ni·al \pə-ˈre-nē-əl\

Definition of perennial

  1. 1 :  present at all seasons of the year

  2. 2 :  persisting for several years usually with new herbaceous growth from a perennating part perennial asters

  3. 3a :  persistent, enduring perennial favoritesb :  continuing without interruption :  constant, perpetual the perennial quest for certainty a perennial studentc :  regularly repeated or renewed :  recurrent death is a perennial literary theme




play \-nē-ə-lē\ adverb

perennial was our Word of the Day on 03/31/2009. Hear the podcast!

Examples of perennial in a sentence

  1. The problem … is inherent and perennial in any democracy, but it has been more severe in ours during the past quarter-century because of the near universal denigration of government, politics and politicians. —Michael Kinsley, Time, 29 Oct. 2001

  2. … scientists are warning that a perennial viral threat, the upcoming flu season, could be far more dangerous than usual—more evidence that these tiny foes are responsible for a large share of human suffering. —Claudia Wallis, Time, 3 Nov. 1986

  3. The issue between science and art is of perennial interest to me, since I started off in science in college, in medicine, was headed for psychiatry, and ended up writing novels … —Walker Percy, “The State Of The Novel,” 1977, in Signposts in a Strange Land, 1991

  4. This variety of oregano is perennial.

  5. Flooding is a perennial problem for people living by the river.

Did You Know?

Nowadays when we talk about "perennial plants," or simply "perennials" ("perennial" can be a noun, too), we mean plants that die back seasonally but produce new growth in the spring. But originally "perennial" was equivalent to "evergreen," used for plants that remain with us all year. We took this "throughout the year" sense straight from the Romans, whose Latin perennis combined "per-" ("throughout") with a form of "annus" ("year"). The poet Ovid, writing around the beginning of the first millennium, used the Latin word to refer to a "perennial spring" (water source), and the scholar Pliny used it of birds that don't migrate. Our "perennial" retains these same uses, for streams and occasionally for birds, but it has long had extended meanings, too.

Origin and Etymology of perennial

Latin perennis, from per- throughout + annus year — more at per-, annual

First Known Use: circa 1660

Synonym Discussion of perennial

continual, continuous, constant, incessant, perpetual, perennial mean characterized by continued occurrence or recurrence. continual often implies a close prolonged succession or recurrence continual showers the whole weekend. continuous usually implies an uninterrupted flow or spatial extension football's oldest continuous rivalry. constant implies uniform or persistent occurrence or recurrence lived in constant pain. incessant implies ceaseless or uninterrupted activity annoyed by the incessant quarreling. perpetual suggests unfailing repetition or lasting duration a land of perpetual snowfall. perennial implies enduring existence often through constant renewal a perennial source of controversy.

Other Seed Plant Terms

PERENNIAL Defined for English Language Learners


adjective pe·ren·ni·al \pə-ˈre-nē-əl\

Definition of perennial for English Language Learners

  • of a plant : living for several years or for many years : having a life cycle that is more than two years long

  • : existing or continuing in the same way for a long time

  • : happening again and again

PERENNIAL Defined for Kids



adjective pe·ren·ni·al \pə-ˈre-nē-əl\

Definition of perennial for Students

  1. 1 :  present all through the year a perennial stream

  2. 2 :  living from year to year a perennial plant

  3. 3 :  never ending :  constant perennial joy

  4. 4 :  happening again and again perennial flooding



noun pe·ren·ni·al

Definition of perennial for Students

  1. :  a plant that lives from year to year

Word Root of perennial

The Latin word annus, meaning “year,” gives us the root ann or enn. Words from the Latin annus have something to do with a year. Anything that is annual happens once a year and anything biennial happens once every two years. An anniversary is the return every year of the date on which something special happened. Something perennial continues all year long or comes back each year.

Medical Dictionary


adjective pe·ren·ni·al \pə-ˈren-ē-əl\

Medical Definition of perennial

  1. :  present at all seasons of the year perennial rhinitis

Seen and Heard

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