any shrub or herbaceous plant of the genus Acanthus, native to the Mediterranean region but widely cultivated as ornamental plants, having large spiny leaves and spikes of white or purplish flowers: family AcanthaceaeSee also bear's-breech
a carved ornament based on the leaves of the acanthus plant, esp as used on the capital of a Corinthian column
C17: New Latin, from Greek akanthos, from akantha thorn, spine
1660s, from Latin acanthus, from Greek akanthos, from ake "point, thorn" (see acrid) + anthos "flower" (see anther). So called for its large spiny leaves. A conventionalized form of the leaf is used in Corinthian capitals.