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[bahm] /bɑm/
any of various oily, fragrant, resinous substances, often of medicinal value, exuding from certain plants, especially tropical trees of the genus Commiphora.
a plant or tree yielding such a substance.
any aromatic or fragrant ointment.
aromatic fragrance; sweet odor:
the balm of orange blossoms.
any of various aromatic plants of the mint family, especially those of the genus Melissa, as M. officinalis (lemon balm) having ovate lemon-scented leaves used as a seasoning.
anything that heals, soothes, or mitigates pain:
the balm of friendship in troubled times.
Origin of balm
1175-1225; Middle English basme, ba(u)me < Anglo-French basme, bal(s)me, ba(u)me; Old French < Latin balsamum balsam; with orthographic l pedantically restored
Related forms
balmlike, adjective
Can be confused
balm, bomb.
3. salve, unguent, lotion, emollient. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for balm
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • What an unlooked-for flight was this from our shadowy avenue of black-ash and balm of Gilead trees into the infinite!

  • And now tell me, have you any balm for such a sorrow as mine?

    Earl Hubert's Daughter Emily Sarah Holt
  • She was a creature born to be the succour of misery, the balm of distress.

  • And in her certain friendship the balm of peace falls softly on us.

    The Heart of Nature Francis Younghusband
  • It was like balm to the soul after all the turmoil and friction with crowds of strangers.

    Farthest North Fridtjof Nansen
  • Here was a plant he had driven ten miles to get for her; here were the mint and balm she loved.

    Country Neighbors Alice Brown
  • Sometimes I lose patience with its parade of eternal idleness, but at others this very idleness is balm to one's conscience.

    Italian Hours Henry James
British Dictionary definitions for balm


any of various oily aromatic resinous substances obtained from certain tropical trees and used for healing and soothing See also balsam (sense 1)
any plant yielding such a substance, esp the balm of Gilead
something comforting or soothing: soft music is a balm
any aromatic or oily substance used for healing or soothing
Also called lemon balm. an aromatic Eurasian herbaceous plant, Melissa officinalis, having clusters of small fragrant white two-lipped flowers: family Lamiaceae (labiates)
a pleasant odour
Derived Forms
balmlike, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French basme, from Latin balsamumbalsam
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for balm

early 13c., basme, aromatic substance made from resins and oils, from Old French basme (Modern French baume), from Latin balsamum, from Greek balsamon "balsam," from Hebrew basam "spice," related to Aramaic busma, Arabic basham "balsam, spice, perfume."

Spelling refashioned 15c.-16c. on Latin model. Sense of "healing or soothing influence" (1540s) is from aromatic preparations from balsam (see balsam). Biblical Balm of Gilead, however, began with Coverdale; the Hebrew word there is tsori, which was rendered in Septuagint and Vulgate as "resin" (Greek rhetine, Latin resina).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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balm in Medicine

balm (bäm)

  1. An aromatic salve or oil.

  2. A soothing, healing, or comforting agent.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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balm in Technology

(Block And List Manipulation) An extensible language, developed by Malcolm Harrison in 1970, with LISP-like features and ALGOL-like syntax, for CDC 6600.
["The Balm Programming Language", Malcolm Harrison, Courant Inst, May 1973].

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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balm in the Bible

contracted from Bal'sam, a general name for many oily or resinous substances which flow or trickle from certain trees or plants when an incision is made through the bark. (1.) This word occurs in the Authorized Version (Gen. 37:25; 43:11; Jer. 8:22; 46:11; 51:8; Ezek. 27:17) as the rendering of the Hebrew word _tsori_ or _tseri_, which denotes the gum of a tree growing in Gilead (q.v.), which is very precious. It was celebrated for its medicinal qualities, and was circulated as an article of merchandise by Arab and Phoenician merchants. The shrub so named was highly valued, and was almost peculiar to Palestine. In the time of Josephus it was cultivated in the neighbourhood of Jericho and the Dead Sea. There is an Arab tradition that the tree yielding this balm was brought by the queen of Sheba as a present to Solomon, and that he planted it in his gardens at Jericho. (2.) There is another Hebrew word, _basam_ or _bosem_, from which our word "balsam," as well as the corresponding Greek balsamon, is derived. It is rendered "spice" (Cant. 5:1, 13; 6:2; margin of Revised Version, "balsam;" Ex. 35:28; 1 Kings 10:10), and denotes fragrance in general. _Basam_ also denotes the true balsam-plant, a native of South Arabia (Cant. l.c.).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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