The adjective is borrowed from Latin perennis (lasting through the whole year or for several years, perennial; continual, everlasting, perpetual) + English -al (suffix meaning ‘of or pertaining to’ forming adjectives). Perennis is derived from per- (completive or intensifying prefix with the sense of doing something all the way through or entirely) + annus (year; season, time)[1] (possibly ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₂et- (to go)). The English word is analysable as per- +‎ -ennial.

The noun is derived from the adjective.



perennial (not comparable)

  1. Lasting or remaining active throughout the year, or all the time.
    Synonym: (archaic or obsolete) perennal
    a perennial stream
    • 1644 March 8 (Gregorian calendar), John Evelyn, “[Diary entry for 27 February 1644]”, in William Bray, editor, Memoirs, Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn, [], volume I, 2nd edition, London: Henry Colburn, []; and sold by John and Arthur Arch, [], published 1819, OCLC 976971842, page 43:
      [W]hat is most admirable is the vast enclosure, and variety of ground, in ye large garden, containing vineyards, cornefields, meadows, groves (whereof one is of perennial greens), and walkes of vast lengthes, so accurately kept and cultivated, that nothing can be more agreeable.
    • 1713, W[illiam] Derham, “[A Survey of the Terraqueous Globe.] The Distribution of the Earth and Waters.”, in Physico-Theology: Or, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, from His Works of Creation. [], London: [] W[illiam] Innys, [], OCLC 2313581, book II (Of the Terraqueous Globe It Self, in General), footnote 3, pages 49–50:
      And there is ſuch a thing as Subterraneous Heat, [] [a]s is manifeſt from the ſmoking of perennial Fountains in froſty VVeather, and VVater dravvn out of Pumps and open VVells.
    • 1854 August 9, Henry D[avid] Thoreau, “The Ponds”, in Walden; or, Life in the Woods, Boston, Mass.: Ticknor and Fields, OCLC 4103827, page 191:
      It [the pond] is a clear and deep green well, half a mile long and a mile and three quarters in circumference, and contains about sixty-one and a half acres; a perennial spring in the midst of pine and oak woods, without any visible inlet or outlet except by the clouds and evaporation.
    • 1876, Herman Melville, “Canto I. In the Mountain.”, in Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. [], volume II, New York, N.Y.: G[eorge] P[almer] Putnam’s Sons [], OCLC 27956040, part III (Mar Saba), page 306:
      That desert's age the gorge may prove, / Piercing profound the mountain bare; / Yet hardly churned out in the groove / By a perennial wear and tear / Of floods; nay, dry it shows within; / But twice a year the waters flow, / Nor then in tide, but dribbling thin: []
  2. (figuratively)
    1. Continuing without cessation or intermission for several years, or for an undetermined or infinite period; neverending or never failing; perpetual, unceasing.
      Synonyms: continual, enduring, everlasting, permanent, timeless; see also Thesaurus:eternal
      His artwork has a perennial beauty.
    2. Appearing or recurring again and again; recurrent.
      Synonyms: repetitious; see also Thesaurus:repetitive
      a perennial candidate in elections
      Change is a perennial theme in politics.
      • 1881, “Free-lance” [pseudonym; J. T. Denny], “Ludgate Hill only Rises about Four Feet in Every Hundred—Societies—the Bearing Rein only Required on Cripples”, in Horses and Roads: Or How to Keep a Horse Sound on His Legs [], 3rd edition, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., OCLC 1117149338, page 129:
        Ludgate Hill is not Moirosi’s Mountain, but, after all, is only a gentle ascent of about half an inch in the foot, over a length of about two hundred yards, up which unshod omnibus horses would trot with a full load in any weather. Yet there it must remain, a chief thoroughfare in the heart of London, a perennial cause of complaint, and of fear, disgust, and injury to man and horse.
      • 1886, Annie Besant, Life, Death, and Immortality, London: Freethought Publishing Company, [], OCLC 79181382, page 3:
        Of all the questions which, throughout the centuries, have escaped from the lips of man, there is none which has been asked with such persistence, none which has possessed interest more perennial, than "Whence do I come? Whither shall I go?" Man's origin, man's hereafter, have ever been of intensest interest to man.
      1. (rare) Appearing again each year; annual.
  3. (botany) Of a plant: active throughout the year, or having a life cycle of more than two growing seasons.
    Coordinate terms: annual, biennial

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit



perennial (plural perennials)

  1. (botany) A plant that is active throughout the year, or has a life cycle of more than two growing seasons.
    Coordinate terms: annual, biennial, evergreen
  2. (by extension)
    1. A thing that lasts forever.
    2. A person or thing (such as a problem) that appears or returns regularly.
      • 2019 June 21, Sterling Whitaker, “Hottest Country Tours to See in Summer 2019”, in Taste of Country[1], archived from the original on 31 May 2021:
        Some of the stars on our list are perennials who fill huge venues year after year after year, but there's also a returning superstar on our list of the hottest summer tours of 2019.



  1. ^ perennial, adj. and n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2022; “perennial, adj. and n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

Further readingEdit