• synonyms


[jen-shuh n]
  1. any of several plants of the genera Gentiana, Gentianella, and Gentianopsis, having usually blue, or sometimes yellow, white, or red, flowers, as the fringed gentian of North America, or Gentiana lutea, of Europe.Compare gentian family.
  2. any of various plants resembling the gentian.
  3. the root of G. lutea, or a preparation of it, used as a tonic.
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Origin of gentian

1350–1400; Middle English gencian < Latin gentiāna; said to be named after Gentius, an Illyrian king
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gentian

Historical Examples

  • He would chew camomile, gentian, tooth-picks, but it was of no use.

    How to Succeed

    Orison Swett Marden

  • Discard the golden-rod for the gentian, and in turn forsake the gentian for the twin-flower?

    The Foot-path Way

    Bradford Torrey

  • I told the saleswoman to get me the best she had but it must be gentian blue.

  • Stomachics restore the tone of the stomach, such as gentian, &c.

  • The ancients describe one species of Gentian; I know of ten or more.

British Dictionary definitions for gentian


  1. any gentianaceous plant of the genera Gentiana or Gentianella, having blue, yellow, white, or red showy flowers
  2. the bitter-tasting dried rhizome and roots of Gentiana lutea (European or yellow gentian), which can be used as a tonic
  3. any of several similar plants, such as the horse gentian
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Word Origin

C14: from Latin gentiāna; perhaps named after Gentius, a second-century bc Illyrian king, reputedly the first to use it medicinally
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 gentian


late 14c., genciane, from Old French genciane and directly from Latin gentiana, said by Pliny to be named for Gentius, king of ancient Illyria who discovered its properties. This likely is a folk-etymology, but the word may be Illyrian nonetheless, because the suffix -an frequently occurs in Illyrian words.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper