: a European herb (Isatis tinctoria) of the mustard family formerly grown for the blue dyestuff yielded by its leaves
also : this dyestuff

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Achieving a luxurious hue, coaxed from the red roots of the herb madder and the small bluish leaves of the flower woad, required multiple rounds of costly dyeing. Katie Thornton, The Atlantic, 26 Sep. 2022 Many purples in historic fabrics are, in fact, the result of coloring a fabric with a blue dye, like indigo or woad, and a red dye, like madder. Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 July 2022 In France in 1598, King Henry IV favored woad producers by banning the import of indigo, and in 1609 decreed that anyone using the dye would be executed. Brandon Tensley, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 Nov. 2020 Plus, indigo represented a threat to European textile merchants who had heavily invested in woad, a homegrown source of blue dye. Brandon Tensley, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 Nov. 2020 His ruling élite dressed in the finest clothes, made by boiling woad leaves and madder roots to produce dyes of dazzling cerulean and ruby. Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, 22 June 2020 Seeing a peasant wearing red is improbable, but the abundance of woad makes blue dyes commonplace even among peasants. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, 13 Nov. 2018 The family imported herring and woad in large enough quantities to buy an existing estate and win a kind of ersatz ennoblement. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 16 Jan. 2017 See More

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

Word History


Middle English wod, from Old English wād; akin to Old High German weit woad, Latin vitrum

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near woad

Cite this Entry

“Woad.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/woad. Accessed 30 Jan. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on woad

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Commonly Confused Words Quiz

  • vector image of a face with thought expression
  • I went to the ______ store to buy a birthday card.
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?