1. any of several trees constituting the genus Catalpa, of the bignonia family, especially C. speciosa, of the central U.S., or C. bignonioides, of the southern U.S., having opposite, sometimes whorled leaves, clusters of white flowers, and long, beanlike seed pods.

Origin of catalpa

1720–30, Americanism; (< New Latin) < Creek katałpa, equivalent to ka-, combining form of iká head + tałpa wing (apparently so called from the shape of the flower)
Also called Indian bean. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for catalpa

Historical Examples of catalpa

  • Catalpa is a tree singularly free from destructive diseases.

    Seasoning of Wood

    Joseph B. Wagner

  • The leaves of a catalpa, across the roadway, hung motionless.

  • And, David, tea under the catalpa, as we always do on fine nights.

  • I am not the man you knew—except in loving you I am not the man who sat with you beneath the catalpa.

    Lewis Rand

    Mary Johnston

  • As she walked ankle-deep in the unclipped grass under the catalpa and elm-trees, she looked around with eager interest.


    Edna Turpin

British Dictionary definitions for catalpa


  1. any bignoniaceous tree of the genus Catalpa of North America and Asia, having large leaves, bell-shaped whitish flowers, and long slender pods

Word Origin for catalpa

C18: New Latin, from Carolina Creek kutuhlpa, literally: winged head, referring to the appearance of the flowers
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 catalpa

c.1740, from an American Indian language of the Carolinas, perhaps Creek (Muskogean) /katalpa/, literally "head-wing."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper