this·​tle ˈthi-səl How to pronounce thistle (audio)
: any of various prickly composite plants (especially genera Carduus, Cirsium, and Onopordum) with often showy heads of mostly tubular flowers
also : any of various other prickly plants
thistly adjective

Illustration of thistle

Illustration of thistle

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Finally, a good question about using thistle in feeders. Jeff Lowenfels | Alaska Gardening And Growing, Anchorage Daily News, 17 Nov. 2022 Alaska birds go for black sunflower seed, cracked, whole, naked or with hull; raw peanuts, cracked or whole; and, in shells if the feeder is large enough, thistle and food scraps. Jeff Lowenfels | Alaska Gardening And Growing, Anchorage Daily News, 10 Nov. 2022 Barely-blue thistle keeps the gray from feeling too stark. Kelly Allen, House Beautiful, 7 Nov. 2022 Andrew Sargent, a chef at Mar | Muntanya at the Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City, nibbles on a sprig of nodding thistle on an edible plant walk through Memory Grove park led by forager Mike Wood, Oct. 21,2022. Stefene Russell, The Salt Lake Tribune, 29 Oct. 2022 Enameled rose, thistle and shamrock symbols that represent England, Scotland and Ireland were added to the handle in 1820. Júlia Ledur, Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2022 In between each shield is an emblem of the U.K. nations: a rose, a thistle, a shamrock and a leek. Marisa Sullivan, Peoplemag, 28 Oct. 2022 More than half a lifetime removed from the beginning of my love affair with the edible thorny thistle, artichokes remain my favorite vegetable. Michael A. Gardiner, San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 Oct. 2022 Then there was the thistle’s prickly stems, leaves, and calyx, with tufts of white and purple flowers blooming or silvery-gray plumes breaking off and blowing away in the wind. Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, 10 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'thistle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English thistel, from Old English; akin to Old High German distill thistle

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of thistle was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near thistle

Cite this Entry

“Thistle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



this·​tle ˈthis-əl How to pronounce thistle (audio)
: any of various prickly plants related to the daisies and having often showy heads of mostly tubular flowers
thistly adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on thistle

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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