• synonyms

sweet basil

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  1. See under basil.

Origin of sweet basil

First recorded in 1640–50


[baz-uh l, bas-, bey-zuh l, -suh l]
  1. any of several aromatic herbs belonging to the genus Ocimum, of the mint family, as O. basilicum (sweet basil), having purplish-green ovate leaves used in cooking.

Origin of basil

1400–50; late Middle English basile < Middle French < Late Latin basilicum < Greek basilikón, neuter of basilikós royal. See basilic
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for sweet basil

Historical Examples

  • Take two large bunches of sweet-marjoram; the same of sweet-basil; and one bunch of parsley.

    Miss Leslie's Lady's New Receipt-Book

    Eliza Leslie

  • You might as well give your father a pot of sweet-basil such as the cobblers have in their stalls.

British Dictionary definitions for sweet basil


  1. Saint, called the Great, ?329–379 ad, Greek patriarch: an opponent of Arianism and one of the founders of monasticism. Feast day: Jan 2, June 14, or Jan 1

sweet basil

  1. See basil (def. 1)


  1. Also called: sweet basil a Eurasian plant, Ocimum basilicum, having spikes of small white flowers and aromatic leaves used as herbs for seasoning: family Lamiaceae (labiates)
  2. Also called: wild basil a European plant, Satureja vulgaris (or Clinopodium vulgare), with dense clusters of small pink or whitish flowers: family Lamiaceae
  3. basil-thyme a European plant, Acinos arvensis, having clusters of small violet-and-white flowers: family Lamiaceae

Word Origin

C15: from Old French basile, from Late Latin basilicum, from Greek basilikon, from basilikos royal, from basileus king
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 sweet basil



aromatic shrubby plant, early 15c., from Old French basile (15c., Modern French basilic), from Medieval Latin basilicum, from Greek basilikon (phyton) "royal (plant)," from basileus "king" (see Basil). So called, probably, because it was believed to have been used in making royal perfumes. In Latin, confused with basiliscus (see basilisk) because it was supposed to be an antidote to the basilisk's venom.


masc. proper name, from Latin Basilius, from Greek Basileios "kingly, royal," from basileus "king," of unknown origin, possibly from a language of Asia Minor (cf. Lydian battos "king").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper