[uh-spar-uh-guh s]
  1. any plant of the genus Asparagus, of the lily family, especially A. officianalis, cultivated for its edible shoots.
  2. the shoots, eaten as a vegetable.

Origin of asparagus

before 1000; < Latin < Greek asp(h)áragos; replacing Old English sparagi (< Medieval Latin) and later sperage, sparrowgrass
Related formsas·pa·rag·i·nous [as-puh-raj-uh-nuh s] /ˌæs pəˈrædʒ ə nəs/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for asparagus


  1. any Eurasian liliaceous plant of the genus Asparagus, esp the widely cultivated A. officinalis, having small scaly or needle-like leaves
  2. the succulent young shoots of A. officinalis, which may be cooked and eaten
  3. asparagus fern a fernlike species of asparagus, A. plumosus, native to southern Africa

Word Origin for asparagus

C15: from Latin, from Greek asparagos, of obscure 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 asparagus

late Old English sparage, from Latin asparagus (in Medieval Latin often sparagus), from Greek asparagos, of uncertain origin; probably from PIE root *sp(h)er(e)g- "to spring up" (though perhaps from a non-Greek source). In Middle English, asperages sometimes was regarded as a plural, with false singular aspergy.

By 16c. the word had been anglicized as far as sperach, sperage. It was respelled by c.1600 to conform with classical Latin, but then folk-etymologized formation sparrowgrass arose 17c., persisting into 19c., during which time asparagus had "an air of stiffness and pedantry" [John Walker, "Critical Pronouncing Dictionary," 1791]. Known in Old English as eorðnafela.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper