li·​lac ˈlī-ˌläk How to pronounce lilac (audio) -ˌlak How to pronounce lilac (audio)
: a widely cultivated European shrub (Syringa vulgaris) of the olive family that has cordate ovate leaves and large panicles of fragrant pinkish-purple or white flowers
: a tree or shrub congeneric with the lilac
: a variable color averaging a moderate purple

Illustration of lilac

Illustration of lilac
  • lilac 1a

Examples of lilac in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web California lilacs have put on the most spectacular show this year. Nan Sterman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Apr. 2024 This spring, expect whites, reds, and shades of soft pastels (think lilacs, yellows, and sky blues) to bring a fresh feel to outdoor spaces. Cori Sears, Better Homes & Gardens, 4 Apr. 2024 Come spring, the grounds burst with color, namely the 200-plus cherry blossom trees that bloom in April, and the lilacs, bluebells, and peonies springing to life throughout May. Nicole Kliest, Vogue, 21 Mar. 2024 Bed linens sailing the wind, curtains flaring beyond the windscreens, lilacs soon to lie on the ground. Carolyn Forché, The Atlantic, 24 Mar. 2024 Some favorites are California lilacs and pipevines, coyote bushes, sage, and seaside daisies—all of which, not insignificantly, cater to endangered types of butterflies, bees, and other insects. Paola Singer, Robb Report, 10 Mar. 2024 White, lavender, deep purple, and even rare yellow and blue lilacs perfuming the air. Elizabeth Brownfield, Forbes, 29 Feb. 2024 Later spring blooming species such as some viburnums and early lilacs (Syringa species and hybrids) also tend to force fairly well. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, 9 Feb. 2024 First the color palette: subtle peaches, vibrant lilacs, blood oranges; sheer and layered on top of one another, hugging the body and creating its own ridges and frontiers. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, 11 Dec. 2023

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

Word History


obsolete French (now lilas), from Arabic līlak, from Persian nīlak bluish, from nīl blue, from Sanskrit nīla dark blue

First Known Use

1625, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of lilac was in 1625

Dictionary Entries Near lilac

Cite this Entry

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

Kids Definition


li·​lac ˈlī-lək How to pronounce lilac (audio) -ˌlak How to pronounce lilac (audio)
: any of a genus of shrubs and trees related to the olive
especially : a European shrub widely grown for its showy clusters of fragrant pink, purple, or white flowers
: a medium purple

More from Merriam-Webster on lilac

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