roo·​i·​bos ˈrȯi-ˌbȯs How to pronounce rooibos (audio)
-ˌbäs How to pronounce rooibos (audio)
: a small bush (Aspalathus linearis) of the legume family native to western South Africa that typically grows in nutrient-poor, sandy soils and has green, needlelike leaves and yellow flowers
Rooibos is an erect or straggling, slender-stemmed heath-like bush …Jacobus F. N. Smith et al.
or rooibos tea
: the dried leaves and young stems of the rooibos bush used especially in making herbal tea

Note: When subjected to oxidation during processing, the leaves and stems of the rooibos bush turn reddish-brown. Rooibos tea may be referred to as red rooibos when exposed to significant oxidation or green rooibos when exposed to minimal oxidation.

: an aromatic, slightly sweet, typically reddish-brown, herbal tea prepared from dried rooibos leaves and stems by steeping them in hot water
We each stocked up on some loose leaf tea and ordered some drinks—a vanilla rooibos latte with coconut milk and kombucha on tap.Allison Fong

Note: Rooibos tea is also known as red bush tea and red tea.

Word History


borrowed from Afrikaans (early Afrikaans rooibosch), from rooi "red" (going back to Dutch rode, inflected form of rood, going back to Middle Dutch rood, root) + bos "forest, bush, shrub," going back to Middle Dutch bosch, busch — more at red entry 1, bush entry 1

Note: Afrikaans rooi continues to be, with further loss of final schwa, the common spoken form of Dutch rode, with the intervocalic d unpronounced or replaced by a glide. Rooibos tea directly renders Afrikaans rooibostee.

First Known Use

1893, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of rooibos was in 1893

Dictionary Entries Near rooibos

Cite this Entry

“Rooibos.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

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