toy·​on ˈtȯi-ˌän How to pronounce toyon (audio)
plural toyons
: a chiefly Californian large ornamental evergreen shrub (Heteromeles arbutifolia) of the rose family having clusters of white flowers succeeded by persistent usually bright red berries

called also California holly, Christmas berry

Examples of toyon in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Keep an eye out for Southern California’s quintessential flora along the way, such as lemonade berry and toyon. Maura Fox, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Mar. 2024 The Black Mountain Open Space is a 2,352-acre park managed by the city of San Diego that is home to critters like rattlesnakes and coyotes as well as plant life like toyon, California sagebrush and prickly pear. Maura Fox, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Dec. 2023 Replant Be aggressive about replanting native trees like toyon and live oaks, which can keep nonnatives away and create a wind-screen in a landscape that’s been decimated by fire. Christine Lennon, Sunset Magazine, 14 Sep. 2023 In Brian Bautista’s yard, upright showy penstemon, aromatic hummingbird sage, hardy toyon trees, and two types of milkweed — dramatic plants requiring little water — attract birds, butterflies and bees and flourish amid the Bermuda grass lawns. Lisa Boone, Los Angeles Times, 19 July 2023 Toyon produces white summertime flowers that turn into red winter berries that look like holly berries (even though toyon is in the rose family). Mark Gozonsky, Los Angeles Times, 1 June 2023 But toyon remains one of my favorites. Los Angeles Times, 29 Dec. 2022 Consider planting a toyon or replacing a non-native shrub with one. Los Angeles Times, 17 May 2021 Supposedly, stands of toyon on local hills were mistaken for holly and attached to the name of L.A.'s most famous neighborhood. Los Angeles Times, 24 Dec. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'toyon.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed, probably by mediation of California Spanish tollon, from an Ohlone form cognate with Mutsun tyoty·oni "the toyon plant," Rumsen toč·on

Note: Mutsun and Rumsen are both Ohlone or Costanoan languages; Mutsun was once spoken in the Pajaro River drainage (parts of present-day northern Monterey and southern Santa Cruz Counties), and Rumsen around southern Monterey Bay and the lower Salinas and Carmel Rivers. The name toyon apparently first surfaces in print in a communication by the German botanist Karl Theodor Hartweg (1812-71) to the Horticultural Society of London, on whose behalf Hartweg made collecting trips to California and other parts of the New World (see "Journal of a Mission to California to search for Plants," Part III, "received May 10, 1847" Journal of the Horticultural Society of London, vol. 2 [1847], p. 190). It is unclear if the word was borrowed directly from Spanish. Note that the field linguist John Harrington recorded the name for the plant from his Mutsun and Rumsen informants as Spanish toyon as well as Mutsun tyottyoni and Rumsen totchon (see Barbara R. Bocek, "Ethnobotany of Costanoan Indians, California, Based on Collections of John P. Harrington," Economic Botany, vol. 38, no. 2 [April-June 1984], p. 249). On the basis of the Mutsun and Rumsen forms, Catherine Callaghan reconstructs as the ancestral Proto-Costanoan word *toty‧o-n, and for a still earlier pre-Proto-Costanoan **toy‧o-n (see Proto Utian Grammar and Dictionary, De Gruyter, 2011, p. 407). The word for the plant in San Francisco Bay Costanoan, the other major language of the family—of which only the Chochenyo dialect is fully attested—is tuyuk.

First Known Use

1847, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of toyon was in 1847

Dictionary Entries Near toyon

Cite this Entry

“Toyon.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

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