• synonyms

witch hazel

[wich hey-zuh l]
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
  1. a shrub, Hamamelis virginiana, of eastern North America, having toothed, egg-shaped leaves and small, yellow flowers.Compare witch hazel family.
  2. a liquid extraction from the leaves or bark of this plant mixed with water and alcohol, used externally as a liniment for inflammations and bruises and as an astringent.

Origin of witch hazel

1535–45; witch, variant of wych (see wych elm)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for witch hazel

Historical Examples

  • “You can get the witch-hazel and bathe this lamp of mine,” grimly.

    The Place of Honeymoons

    Harold MacGrath

  • The Witch-hazel you buy in the drugstores, is made out of the bark of this tree.

    Woodland Tales

    Ernest Seton-Thompson

  • In the Witch-hazel has been found a soothing balm for many an ache and pain.

    Woodland Tales

    Ernest Seton-Thompson

  • You ought to see the witch-hazel bush in blossom late in November.

    The Fall of the Year

    Dallas Lore Sharp

  • October is not the month of flowers, even if it does claim the witch-hazel for its own.

    Wild Life Near Home

    Dallas Lore Sharp

British Dictionary definitions for witch hazel

witch hazel


  1. any of several trees and shrubs of the genus Hamamelis, esp H. virginiana, of North America, having ornamental yellow flowers and medicinal properties: family Hamamelidaceae
  2. an astringent medicinal solution containing an extract of the bark and leaves of H. virginiana, applied to treat bruises, inflammation, etc
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 witch hazel


1540s, probably from Old English wice "wych-elm" (from wican "to bend") + hæsel, used for any bush of the pine family. The North American bush, from which a soothing lotion is made, was so called from 1670s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

witch hazel in Medicine

witch hazel

  1. Any of several deciduous shrubs or small trees of the genus Hamamelis, especially H. virginiana, of eastern North America, having yellow flowers that bloom in late autumn or winter.
  2. An alcoholic solution containing an extract of the bark and leaves of this plant, applied externally as a mild astringent.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.