• synonyms


  1. a fragrant grass, Cymbopogon nardus, of southern Asia, cultivated as the source of citronella oil.
  2. citronella oil.
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Origin of citronella

1855–60; < New Latin < French citronelle, equivalent to citron citron + -elle diminutive suffix
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for citronella

Historical Examples

  • Oil of citronella will drive them away for a time but a "smudge" may be necessary.

    How Girls Can Help Their Country

    Juliette Low

  • Sure we could wash the socks in some sort of preparation of citronella, couldn't we?

    Skippy Bedelle

    Owen Johnson

  • Oil of citronella is much used and is less objectionable to some persons.

    Handbook of Medical Entomology

    William Albert Riley

  • When nearly cool stir in three ounces of oil of citronella and 1¼ oz.

    Handbook of Medical Entomology

    William Albert Riley

  • It looks like Mammy Susan has all the luck with citronella and I have luck with rose geranium.

British Dictionary definitions for citronella


  1. Also called: citronella grass a tropical Asian grass, Cymbopogon (or Andropogon) nardus, with bluish-green lemon-scented leaves
  2. Also called: citronella oil the yellow aromatic oil obtained from this grass, used in insect repellents, soaps, perfumes, etc
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Word Origin

C19: New Latin, from French citronnelle lemon balm, from citron lemon
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 citronella


1858 in reference to a type of fragrant grass, and especially to the oil it yields, from French citronelle "lemon liquor," from citron (see citrus). Originally an Asiatic grass used in perfumes, later applied to a substance found in lemon oil, etc.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

citronella in Science


  1. The pale-yellow, lemon-scented oil obtained from the leaves of a tropical Asian grass (Cymbopogon nardus), used in insect repellents and perfumes. Citronella consists primarily of an aldehyde of octane.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.