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plural withies
: willow
especially : osier sense 1
: a flexible slender twig or branch (as of osier) : withe
: flexibly tough

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The Origin of Withy

Withy is a word with several synonyms. In its broadest use, it is simply another word for "willow," but it can also be used for a particular category of willows which are also known by the name osier. Additionally, the word withe can be substituted for the "flexible slender twig or branch" sense of withy. Osier entered English from medieval French, whereas willow, withy, and withe all have their origins in Old English. Willow comes from welig; withy comes from wīthig; and withe comes from withthe, a word indirectly related to wīthig.

Word History



Middle English, from Old English wīthig; akin to Old High German wīda willow, Latin vitis vine, viēre to plait — more at wire



First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1598, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near withy

Cite this Entry

“Withy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/withy. Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

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