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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web 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 Look for toyon right now on trails in Griffith Park, at the George F Canyon Nature Center on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, on the Mishe Mokwa Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains and at other low-elevation areas below 4,000 feet. Los Angeles Times, 24 Dec. 2020 The last leg of the trail starts in a eucalyptus grove and becomes grassy and filled with wildflowers; signage names the native plants that surround us — coyote brush, sticky monkey flower, seaside daisy and toyon. Helen Carefoot, Washington Post, 28 Feb. 2020 Eventually, the initial plants give way to slower growing, woody species such as manzanita, toyon, lemonade berry and sages. San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 June 2019 Mulholland Ridge tilted back toward gold, more opaque, and heavy on toyon and sumac. Josh Lurie, Los Angeles Magazine, 25 June 2018 Moonshine’ yarrow, strawberry tree, California fuchsia, toyon and California pipevine. Debbie Arrington, sacbee, 28 July 2017 Maxwell wanted to get rid of her lawn, conserve water and attract wildlife, something she’s accomplished with Sonoma sage, toyon, elderberry and poppies. Marta Yamamoto, The Mercury News, 12 Apr. 2017 See More

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

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 5 Dec. 2022.

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