Definition of vulnerary
- vulnerary plants
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In Latin, vulnus means "wound." You might think, then, that the English adjective vulnerary would mean "wounding" or "causing a wound"—and, indeed, vulnerary has been used that way, along with two obsolete adjectives, vulnerative and vulnific. But for the lasting and current use of vulnerary, we took our cue from the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder. In his Natural History, he used the Latin adjective vulnerarius to describe a plaster, or dressing, for healing wounds. And that's fine—the suffix -ary merely indicates that there is a connection, which, in this case, is to wounds. (As you may have already suspected, vulnerable is related; it comes from the Latin verb vulnerare, which means "to wound.")
First Known Use: 1599See Words from the same year
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