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noun, plural lim·i·tes [lim-i-teez] /ˈlɪm ɪˌtiz/.
  1. a boundary, especially the fortified border or frontier of a country.
  2. (initial capital letter) Siegfried Line.
  3. an ancient Roman frontier fortification.

Origin of limes

1530–40; < Latin līmes; see limit


  1. Also called burnt lime, calcium oxide, caustic lime, calx, quicklime. a white or grayish-white, odorless, lumpy, very slightly water-soluble solid, CaO, that when combined with water forms calcium hydroxide (slaked lime), obtained from calcium carbonate, limestone, or oyster shells: used chiefly in mortars, plasters, and cements, in bleaching powder, and in the manufacture of steel, paper, glass, and various chemicals of calcium.
  2. a calcium compound for improving crops grown in soils deficient in lime.
  3. birdlime.
verb (used with object), limed, lim·ing.
  1. to treat (soil) with lime or compounds of calcium.
  2. to smear (twigs, branches, etc.) with birdlime.
  3. to catch with or as if with birdlime.
  4. to paint or cover (a surface) with a composition of lime and water; whitewash: The government buildings were freshly limed.

Origin of lime1

before 900; Middle English, Old English līm; cognate with Dutch lijm, German Leim, Old Norse līm glue, Latin līmus slime; akin to loam
Related formslime·less, adjectivelime·like, adjectiveun·limed, adjective


  1. the small, greenish-yellow, acid fruit of a citrus tree, Citrus aurantifolia, allied to the lemon.
  2. the tree that bears this fruit.
  3. greenish yellow.
  1. of the color lime.
  2. of or made with limes.

Origin of lime2

1615–25; < Spanish lima < Arabic līmah, līm citrus fruit < Persian līmū(n); cf. lemon
Related formslime·less, adjectivelime·like, adjective


  1. the European linden, Tilia europaea.

Origin of lime3

1615–25; unexplained variant of obsolete line, lind, Middle English, Old English lind. See linden


noun Informal.
  1. limelight.

Origin of lime4

shortened form
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for limes

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • But when the footlights are on and the limes are lit, you'd be surprised to see how fine it looks.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • In the fragrance of the blossom of the limes the bees are gleaning a luscious harvest.

  • It was my first thought as she came toward me, that afternoon, under the limes.

    Coming Home

    Edith Wharton

  • Her beatinge that she hath had hath never hurt her body nor limes.

  • In addition to the ordinary products, pineapples and limes are exported.

    Commercial Geography

    Jacques W. Redway

British Dictionary definitions for limes


noun plural limites (ˈlɪmɪˌtiːz)
  1. the fortified boundary of the Roman Empire

Word Origin

from Latin


  1. short for quicklime, birdlime, slaked lime
  2. agriculture any of certain calcium compounds, esp calcium hydroxide, spread as a dressing on lime-deficient land
verb (tr)
  1. to spread (twigs, etc) with birdlime
  2. to spread a calcium compound upon (land) to improve plant growth
  3. to catch (animals, esp birds) with or as if with birdlime
  4. to whitewash or cover (a wall, ceiling, etc) with a mixture of lime and water (limewash)

Word Origin

Old English līm; related to Icelandic līm glue, Latin līmus slime


  1. a small Asian citrus tree, Citrus aurantifolia, with stiff sharp spines and small round or oval greenish fruits
    1. the fruit of this tree, having acid fleshy pulp rich in vitamin C
    2. (as modifier)lime juice
  1. having the flavour of lime fruit

Word Origin

C17: from French, from Provençal, from Arabic līmah


  1. any linden tree, such as Tilia europaea, planted in many varieties for ornament

Word Origin

C17: changed from obsolete line, from Old English lind linden


  1. (intr) Caribbean slang (of young people) to sit or stand around on the pavement

Word Origin

of unknown origin
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

Word Origin and History for limes



"chalky mineral used in making mortar," from Old English lim "sticky substance, birdlime, mortar, cement, gluten," from Proto-Germanic *leimaz (cf. Old Saxon, Old Norse, Danish lim, Dutch lijm, German Leim "birdlime"), from PIE root *(s)lei- "slime, slimy, sticky" (cf. Latin limus "slime, mud, mire," linere "to smear;" see slime (n.)). Lime is made by putting limestone or shells in a red heat, which burns off the carbonic acid and leaves a brittle white solid which dissolves easily in water. Hence lime-kiln (late 13c.), lime-burner (early 14c.). As a verb, c.1200, from the noun.



greenish-yellow citrus fruit, 1630s, probably via Spanish lima, from Arabic limah "citrus fruit," from Persian limun "lemon" (see lemon (n.1)). Related: Limeade (1892), with ending as in lemonade.



"linden tree," 1620s, earlier line (c.1500), from Middle English lynde (early 14c.), from Old English lind "lime tree" (see linden). Klein suggests the change of -n- to -m- probably began in compounds whose second element began in a labial (e.g. line-bark, line-bast). An ornamental European tree unrelated to the tree that produces the citrus fruit.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

limes in Medicine


n. pl. lim•i•tes (lĭmĭ-tēz′)
  1. A boundary, limit, or threshold.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

limes in Science


  1. A white, lumpy, caustic powder made of calcium oxide sometimes mixed with other chemicals. It is made industrially by heating limestone, bones, or shells. Lime is used as an industrial alkali, in waste treatment, and in making glass, paper, steel, insecticides, and building plaster. It is also added to soil to lower its acidity.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.