any of several, sometimes thorny trees or shrubs belonging to the genus Rhamnus, especially R. frangula, the bark of which is used in medicine.Compare buckthorn family.
a tree or shrub belonging to the genus Bumelia, of the sapodilla family, especially B. lycioides, a thorny tree having elliptic leaves and large clusters of white flowers, common in the southern and part of the central U.S.

Origin of buckthorn

1570–80; buck1 + thorn, rendering New Latin cervi spina
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for buckthorn

Historical Examples of buckthorn

  • Keep the dog quiet and give him a dose of castor oil and buckthorn.

    The Airedale

    Williams Haynes

  • Mike with a grin pointed at his buckthorn which leaned against the wall.

  • And Mike walked up to the maple and tapped it smartly with his buckthorn.

  • Buckthorn was a century ago much used for hedges and arches.

    Old-Time Gardens

    Alice Morse Earle

  • The buckthorn, for example, was just coming out; and the dogwood, and the mountain laurel.


    Stewart White

British Dictionary definitions for buckthorn



any of several thorny small-flowered shrubs of the genus Rhamnus, esp the Eurasian species R. cathartica, whose berries were formerly used as a purgative: family RhamnaceaeSee also sea buckthorn

Word Origin for buckthorn

C16: from buck 1 (from the spiny branches, imagined as resembling antlers) + thorn
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