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Origin of branch

1250–1300; Middle English bra(u)nche<Anglo-French; Old French branche<Late Latin branca paw, of uncertain origin

synonym study for branch

1. Branch, bough, limb refer to divisions of a tree. Branch is general, meaning either a large or a small division. Bough refers only to the larger branches: a bough loaded with apples. A limb is a large primary division of a tree trunk or of a bough: to climb out on a limb.


Other definitions for branch (2 of 2)


a combining form for forming nouns and adjectives that denote gill formations or animals having gill formations.

Origin of -branch

<French -branche, New Latin -branchia, from Latin branchiae “gills” (see branchia)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does -branch mean?

The combining formbranch is used like a suffix denoting “gills” or “having gills.” It is very occasionally used in scientific terms, especially in zoology.

The form –branch comes from Latin branchiae, meaning “gills.” Yes—gills. Discover why at our entry for branchia. Despite the similarity in spelling, –branch is not related to the noun branch, which derives from Late Latin branca, “footprint” or “paw.”

What are variants of –branch?

While –branch doesn’t have any variants, it is related to the combining form branchio, as in branchiostegous. Want to know more? Read our Words That Use article for branchio-.

Examples of -branch

A scientific term that features the form –branch is opisthobranch, “any gastropod mollusk of the order Opisthobranchia,” such as sea slugs.

The form opistho means “back,” “behind,” or “rear,” from Greek ópisthen. The –branch part of the word means “gills.” Opisthobranch literally translates to “gills behind.” The name refers to the fact that the gills of these organisms are located behind the heart.

What are some words that use the equivalent of the combining form –branch in Latin?

What are some other forms that –branch may be commonly confused with?

Not every word that ends with the exact letters –branch, such as anabranch or disbranch. Learn why disbranch means “to break a branch from a tree” at our entry for the word.

Break it down!

The combining form lamelli represents lamella, a thin plate, scale, or membrane. With this in mind, what does lamellibranch literally mean?


What is a basic definition of branch?

A branch is a protruding part of a tree, something that juts out from a main part, or a division of a group or organization. The word branch has many other senses as a noun and a verb.

For most trees, underground roots connect to the thick trunk that extends toward the sky. Jutting out of the trunk are branches, smaller limbs of the tree. Main branches, also called boughs, have smaller extensions with leaves on them. These are also called branches, but more often called twigs.

  • Used in a sentence: I watched my cat climb the branches of the oak tree. 

Branch also refers to similar offshoots from objects that aren’t trees.

  • Used in a sentence: The rope got tangled in the branches of the buck’s antlers. 

In a more figurative sense, branch is used to mean a division of a main group or organization.

  • Real-life examples: The Army, Navy, and Air Force are three major branches of the United States military. Botany, zoology, and microbiology are three major branches of biology.
  • Used in a sentence: We learned in history class that the government is divided into three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial.

Where does branch come from?

The first records of branch come from around 1250. It ultimately comes from the Late Latin branca, meaning “paw” or “foot.”

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to branch?

  • branchless (adjective)
  • branchlike (adjective)
  • multibranched (adjective)
  • outbranch (verb)
  • unbranched (adjective)
  • underbranch (noun)

What are some synonyms for branch?

What are some words that share a root or word element with branch

What are some words that often get used in discussing branch?

How is branch used in real life?

Branch is a common word that most often means a tree limb or something that splits off from a main part.



Try using branch!

True or False?

A branch is the main part of something that other divisions will split off from.

How to use branch in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for branch (1 of 2)

/ (brɑːntʃ) /

See also branch out

Derived forms of branch

branchless, adjectivebranchlike, adjectivebranchy, adjective

Word Origin for branch

C13: from Old French branche, from Late Latin branca paw, foot

British Dictionary definitions for branch (2 of 2)


adj combining form, n combining form
(in zoology) indicating gillslamellibranch

Word Origin for branch-

from Latin: branchia
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with branch


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.