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From Anglo-Norman pimpernele et al., Middle French pimpinelle (burnet saxifrage) et al., from Late Latin pipinella, most likely from Vulgar Latin *piperinus (pepper-like), because its fruit resembled peppercorns, from Latin piper. It has also been linked to Latin bipinnella, from bipennis (two-winged).



pimpernel (plural pimpernels)

  1. (now rare) A plant of the genus Pimpinella, especially burnet saxifrage, Pimpinella saxifraga. [from 16th c.]
  2. Any of various plants of the genus Anagallis, having small red, white or purple flowers, especially the scarlet pimpernel, Anagallis arvensis. [from 15th c.]
    • 1653, Nicholas Culpeper, The English Physician Enlarged, Folio Society 2007, p. 221:
      Common Pimpernel has diverse weak square stalks lying on the ground, beset all along with two small and almost round leaves at every joint [...].
  3. Sanguisorba spp. [from 16th c.]
    1. Great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) [from 16th c.]
    2. Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor). [from 16th c.]
  4. (Canada, US) The yellow pimpernel (Taenidia integerrima)
  5. (figuratively) Someone resembling the fictional Scarlet Pimpernel; a gallant dashing resourceful man given to remarkable feats of bravery and derring-do in liberating victims of tyranny and injustice. [from 20th c.]
    • (Can we date this quote?), Hal Lehrman
      Lined up solidly with the Pimpernels and with the persecuted.