ban·​yan ˈban-yən How to pronounce banyan (audio)
plural banyans
: a large fig tree (Ficus benghalensis) native to India and Pakistan that starts as an epiphyte and has spreading branches which send out aerial roots that grow down to the ground and form secondary trunks around the host tree
The banyan kills the host tree by preventing its trunk from growing. After the host dies, the banyan continues to grow. Eventually, one tree appears to be an entire forest.National Geographic World

Illustration of banyan

Illustration of banyan

Examples of banyan in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Efforts to revive the banyan and other important surviving trees have included trucking in water, applying compost extract and testing soil. Ed Komenda and Audrey McAvoy, The Christian Science Monitor, 19 Oct. 2023 From her vantage point, Isabella could peek from beneath the towel and see Lahaina’s historic banyan tree on fire. Carolyn Wells, Longreads, 9 Jan. 2024 When wildfires ravaged Maui in August, homes and businesses were charred in the historic town of Lahaina — including the town's famed banyan tree. Caitlin O'Kane, CBS News, 19 Sep. 2023 The fire also decimated historic Front Street – home to restaurants, bars, and tourist shops – and heavily damaged what is believed to be the U.S.’ largest banyan tree. Michael Casey, The Christian Science Monitor, 4 Oct. 2023 It is believed to be the largest banyan tree in the U.S. Kait Hanson, Travel + Leisure, 11 Aug. 2023 The sprawling tree, located in Lahaina Banyan Court Park, is regarded as Maui’s oldest living banyan tree, according to the County of Maui. Globe Staff,, 10 Aug. 2023 The fires have burned historic sites, such as a large banyan tree where the palace of Hawaii’s first king, Kamehameha, once stood, per NBC News’ Sakshi Venkatraman and Kimmy Yam. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Aug. 2023 Lahaina Heritage Museum The Lahaina Heritage Museum, just west of the banyan tree, also lies amid a field of fire debris captured by satellite images. Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN, 10 Aug. 2023

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

Word History


earlier banyan Gujarati trader, from Portuguese banean, probably from Tamil vāniyan trader, from Sanskrit vāṇija; from a tree of the species in Iran under which such traders conducted business

First Known Use

1638, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of banyan was in 1638

Dictionary Entries Near banyan

Cite this Entry

“Banyan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ban·​yan ˈban-yən How to pronounce banyan (audio)
: a large East Indian tree with branches that send out roots which grow downward into the ground and form new supporting trunks

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