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[bawl-suh, bahl-] /ˈbɔl sə, ˈbɑl-/
a tropical American tree, Ochroma pyramidale (lagopus), of the bombax family, yielding an exceedingly light wood used for life preservers, rafts, toy airplanes, etc.
a raft made of balsa wood.
any life raft.
Origin of balsa
1770-80; < Spanish: boat Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for balsa
Historical Examples
  • Also among the ruins of the balsa we found some of the dried fish that was left to us, and having washed it, filled ourselves.

    The Virgin of the Sun H. R. Haggard
  • Behind yonder rock is my balsa and with it are the two maidens.

    The Virgin of the Sun H. R. Haggard
  • Passing through the gates the bearers placed the balsa on the ground and fell back.

    The Virgin of the Sun H. R. Haggard
  • On this coast we again meet with wooden canoes, although the balsa, or tule raft, is also in use.

  • Up betimes upon the morning of our second day on shore, for a drive to the balsa.

    Kathay: A Cruise in the China Seas W. Hastings Macaulay
  • "The balsa will not overset, sailing beneath the moon with that Moon-lady for a pilot," he replied heavily.

    The Virgin of the Sun H. R. Haggard
  • In a few minutes the balsa lodged against the shore in the still water of a little cove.

    Captured by the Navajos Charles A. Curtis
  • A canoe formed from the trunk of a large tree, generally cedar or balsa wood.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • The people and houses crossed it swimming, and the baggage was carried over in a balsa, a sort of hide-raft.

  • He made a landing on a sand-spit that struck off from an outward curve of the bank, and dragged the balsa out of the water.

    Captured by the Navajos Charles A. Curtis
British Dictionary definitions for balsa


a bombacaceous tree, Ochroma lagopus, of tropical America
Also called balsawood. the very light wood of this tree, used for making rafts, etc
a light raft
Word Origin
C18: from Spanish: raft
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 balsa

South American tree, 1866, apparently from Spanish balsa "float," originally the name of rafts used on the Pacific coast of Latin America (1777). The wood is very light.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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