1. a poisonous plant, Conium maculatum, of the parsley family, having purple-spotted stems, finely divided leaves, and umbels of small white flowers, used medicinally as a powerful sedative.
  2. a poisonous drink made from this plant.
  3. any of various other plants, especially of the genus Cicuta, as the water hemlock.
  4. Also called hemlock spruce. any of several coniferous trees of the genus Tsuga, native to the U.S., characterized by a pyramidal manner of growth.Compare eastern hemlock, western hemlock.
  5. the soft, light wood of a hemlock tree, used in making paper, in the construction of buildings, etc.

Origin of hemlock

before 900; Middle English hemlok, humlok, Old English hymlic, hemlic; perhaps akin to Old English hymele hop plant
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for hemlock


  1. an umbelliferous poisonous Eurasian plant, Conium maculatum, having finely divided leaves, spotted stems, and small white flowersUS name: poison hemlock See also water hemlock
  2. a poisonous drug derived from this plant
  3. Also called: hemlock spruce any coniferous tree of the genus Tsuga, of North America and E Asia, having short flat needles: family PinaceaeSee also western hemlock
  4. the wood of any of these trees, used for lumber and as a source of wood pulp

Word Origin for hemlock

Old English hymlic; perhaps related to hymele hop plant, Middle Low German homele, Old Norwegian humli, Old Slavonic chǔmelï
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 hemlock

a poisonous plant, Old English (Kentish) hemlic, earlier hymlice, hymblice; of unknown origin. Liberman suggests from root hem- "poison," perhaps with the plant name suffix -ling or -ig. As the name of the poison derived from the plant, c.1600. The North American tree so called from 1776, from resemblance of its leaves to those of the plant.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper