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Pink cactus flowers in bloom.

Alternative formsEdit

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English flour, from Anglo-Norman flur, from Latin flōrem, accusative of flōs, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰleh₃- (to thrive, bloom). Partially displaced Middle English blosme, blossem (flower; blossom) (see blossom).



flower (plural flowers)

  1. A colorful, conspicuous structure associated with angiosperms, frequently scented and attracting various insects, and which may or may not be used for sexual reproduction.
    • 1653, William Basse, “Clio, or The First Muse; in 9 Eglogues in Honor of 9 Vertues. As It was in His Dayes Intended. [Munday. Laurinella. Eglogue. Of True and Chast Love.]”, in J[ohn] P[ayne] C[ollier], editor, The Pastorals and Other Workes of William Basse. [] (Miscellaneous Tracts, Temp. Eliz. & Jac. I), [London: s.n.], published 1870, OCLC 1062069941:
      O Laurinella! little doſt thou wot / How fraile a flower thou doſt ſo highly prize: / Beauty's the flower, but love the flower-pot / That muſt preſerve it, els it quickly dyes.
  2. (botany) A reproductive structure in angiosperms (flowering plants), often conspicuously colourful and typically including sepals, petals, and either or both stamens and/or a pistil.
    • 1894, H. G. Wells, The Flowering of the Strange Orchid
      You know, Darwin studied their fertilisation, and showed that the whole structure of an ordinary orchid flower was contrived in order that moths might carry the pollen from plant to plant.
  3. A plant that bears flowers, especially a plant that is small and lacks wood.
    We transplanted the flowers to a larger pot.
  4. (usually with in) Of plants, a state of bearing blooms.
    The dogwoods are in flower this week.
  5. (euphemistic, hypocoristic) The vulva, especially the labia majora.
    • 1749, [John Cleland], Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure [Fanny Hill], London: Printed [by Thomas Parker] for G. Fenton [i.e., Fenton and Ralph Griffiths] [], OCLC 731622352:
      that my virgin flower was yet uncrop'd, never enter'd into his head, and he would have thought it idling with time and words to have question'd me upon it
  6. The best examples or representatives of a group.
    We selected the flower of the applicants.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Hooker
      The choice and flower of all things profitable the Psalms do more briefly contain.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Southey
      the flower of the chivalry of all Spain
  7. The best state of things; the prime.
    She was in the flower of her life.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Tennyson
      A simple maiden in her flower / Is worth a hundred coats of arms.
  8. (obsolete) Flour.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Arbuthnot
      The flowers of grains, mixed with water, will make a sort of glue.
  9. (in the plural, chemistry, obsolete) A substance in the form of a powder, especially when condensed from sublimation.
    the flowers of sulphur
  10. A figure of speech; an ornament of style.
  11. (printing) Ornamental type used chiefly for borders around pages, cards, etc.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of W. Savage to this entry?)
  12. (in the plural) Menstrual discharges.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Bible, Leviticus xv. 24 (American King James Version)
      And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed where on he lies shall be unclean.
Usage notesEdit

In its most common sense as "a colorful conspicuous structure", the word flower includes many structures which are not anatomically flowers in the botanical sense. Sunflowers and daisies, for example, are structurally clusters of many small flowers that together appear to be a single flower (a capitulum, a form of pseudanthium), but these are considered to be flowers in the general sense. Likewise, the botanical definition of flower includes many structures that would not be considered a flower by the average person, such as the catkins of a willow tree or the downy flowers found atop a cattail stalk.



flower (third-person singular simple present flowers, present participle flowering, simple past and past participle flowered)

  1. (intransitive) To put forth blooms.
    This plant flowers in June.
  2. (transitive) To decorate with pictures of flowers.
  3. (intransitive) To reach a state of full development or achievement.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Spenser
      when flowered my youthful spring
    • 1940 Mahadev Desai, translator, Mahatma Gandhi, An Autobiography, Part III (IX) Simple Life, original published 1927-1929
      It only needed watering to take root, to flower and to fructify, and the watering came in due course.
    • 2012, Naomi Wolf, Vagina: A New Biography, page 43:
      In life after life of this now-expanded circle of women artists, writers and revolutionaries, the same appeared: a flowing of creative insight and vision seemed the follow a sexual flowering.
  4. (intransitive) To froth; to ferment gently, as new beer.
  5. (intransitive) To come off as flowers by sublimation.

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit

See alsoEdit

Etymology 2Edit

flow +‎ -er

Alternative formsEdit



flower (plural flowers)

  1. (rare) Something that flows, such as a river.
    • 1886–1890, J. D. Rees, Narratives of Tours in India, page 340:
      Leaving the weavers’ village behind you, and crossing the sandy bed of the Vengavati or ‘Swift-flower,’ which, however, contained not a drop of water, you reach the ancient Jain temple.
    • 1888, John T. White, The Seventh Book of Cæsar’s Gallic War with a Vocabulary, page 224:
      Rhŏdănus, i, m. The Rhodanus (now Rhone); a river of Gaul [prob. a northern word, meaning “Swift-flower or Swift-passer”].
    • 1893, Arthur A. MacDonnell, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, page 340:
      sará-yu, f. [swift flower: √sri] N. of a river (in Oudh), in C. gnly. û.
    • 1959, Scottish Studies, volumes 3–4, page 92:
      one that flows with force and speed; the fast flower
    • 2019, Radio Times Crossword, 24 August:
      Bonnie partner with Scottish flower (5)

Usage notesEdit





  1. someone who is allowed to participate in games but cannot become it; usually a younger sibling of a player who may or may not fully grasp the mechanics of the game
  2. (mahjong) a flower or season tile
  3. (mahjong) the act of declaring and revealing a flower or season tile and in order drawing a replacement tile