[bawl-suh, bahl-]
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  1. a tropical American tree, Ochroma pyramidale (lagopus), of the bombax family, yielding an exceedingly light wood used for life preservers, rafts, toy airplanes, etc.
  2. a raft made of balsa wood.
  3. any life raft.

Origin of balsa

1770–80; < Spanish: boat Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for balsa

barge, boat, lifeboat, float, pontoon, balsa, lighter

Examples from the Web for balsa

Historical Examples of balsa

British Dictionary definitions for balsa


  1. a bombacaceous tree, Ochroma lagopus, of tropical America
  2. Also called: balsawood the very light wood of this tree, used for making rafts, etc
  3. a light raft

Word Origin for balsa

C18: from Spanish: raft
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 balsa

South American tree, 1866, apparently from Spanish balsa "float," originally the name of rafts used on the Pacific coast of Latin America (1777). The wood is very light.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper