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[lem-uh n] /ˈlɛm ən/
the yellowish, acid fruit of a subtropical citrus tree, Citrus limon.
the tree itself.
Informal. a person or thing that proves to be defective, imperfect, or unsatisfactory; dud:
His car turned out to be a lemon.
made of or with lemon.
having the color, taste, or odor of lemon.
Origin of lemon
1350-1400; 1905-10 for def 4; < Medieval Latin lemōnium; replacing Middle English lymon < Medieval Latin līmō, (stem līmōn-) < Persian līmū, līmun
Related forms
lemonish, adjective
lemonlike, lemony, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for lemon


a small Asian evergreen tree, Citrus limon, widely cultivated in warm and tropical regions, having pale green glossy leaves and edible fruits related adjectives citric citrine citrous
  1. the yellow oval fruit of this tree, having juicy acidic flesh rich in vitamin C
  2. (as modifier): a lemon jelly
Also called lemon yellow
  1. a greenish-yellow or strong yellow colour
  2. (as adjective): lemon wallpaper
a distinctive tart flavour made from or in imitation of the lemon
(slang) a person or thing considered to be useless or defective
Derived Forms
lemonish, adjective
lemon-like, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Medieval Latin lemōn-, from Arabic laymūn
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 lemon

type of citrus fruit, c.1400, lymon, from Old French limon "citrus fruit" (12c.), via Provençal or Italian from Arabic laimun, from Persian limu(n), generic terms for citrus fruits (cf. lime (n.2)); cognate with Sanskrit nimbu "the lime." Slang meaning "a Quaalude" is 1960s, from Lemmon, name of a pharmaceutical company that once manufactured the drug.


"worthless thing," 1909, American English slang; from lemon (n.1), perhaps via criminal slang sense of "a person who is a loser, a simpleton," which is perhaps from the notion of someone a sharper can "suck the juice out of." A pool hall hustle was called a lemon game (1908); while to hand someone a lemon was British slang (1906) for "to pass off a sub-standard article as a good one." Or it simply may be a metaphor for something which leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for lemon

lemon 1


  1. Anything unsatisfactory or defective, esp a car; clinker: His tale brought back memories of my first lemon/ That show's a lemon (1909+)
  2. A light-skinned and attractive black woman; high yellow (1940s+ Black)
  3. A sour, disagreeable person (1925+)
  4. (also lemonade) Weakened or diluted narcotics, or a nonnarcotic substance sold as a narcotic; blank (1960s+ Narcotics)

Related Terms

hand someone a lemon

lemon 2


A Quaalude2

[1960s+ Narcotics; Lemmon is the name of a pharmaceutical company that once manufactured the drug]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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