[ hol-ee ]
/ ˈhɒl i /
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noun, plural hol·lies.
any of numerous trees or shrubs of the genus Ilex, as I. opaca(American holly ), the state tree of Delaware, or I. aquifolium(English holly ), having glossy, spiny-toothed leaves, small, whitish flowers, and red berries.
the foliage and berries, used for decoration, especially during the Christmas season.
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Origin of holly

before 1150; Middle English holi(e), holyn,Old English hole(g)n; cognate with Welsh celyn,Irish cuillean; akin to Dutch, German hulst,French houx (<Old High German hulis)

Other definitions for holly (2 of 2)

[ hol-ee ]
/ ˈhɒl i /

Buddy Charles Hardin Holley, 1936–59, U.S. rock and roll singer and guitarist.
a female or male given name.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does holly mean?

Holly is a plant (tree or shrub) known for its bright red berries and its glossy, prickly-edged evergreen leaves. There are many varieties of holly, all of which belong to the genus Ilex.

Most people are familiar with the common varieties of decorative holly, including American holly (scientific name Ilex opaca) and English holly (Ilex aquifolium)

In many places, holly is associated with wintertime and particularly with the Christmas season. (Some varieties of holly are known as winterberry.) During this season, holly branches are popularly used in decorations such as wreaths.

Although holly plants are not especially known for their flowers (which are small and white), holly is one of the December birth flowers (a flower that’s associated with a particular month in the same way as a birthstone).

American holly is the state tree of Delaware.

Holly is also a given name, most traditionally a feminine one.

Example: I just love the look of a real holly wreath on the door—it’s so festive!

Where does holly come from?

The first records of the word holly in English come from before 1150. It’s related to the Old Slavonic word kolja, meaning “prick” (in reference to its prickly leaves).

Holly is found all over the world, but most varieties are native to the tropics and subtropics. Varieties of holly range from tall trees to very small shrubs.

While some birds and other wildlife are able to eat the berries from some holly plants, they are toxic to humans.

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What are some other forms related to holly?

  • hollies (plural)

What are some synonyms for holly?

What are some words that often get used in discussing holly?

How is holly used in real life?

Holly is popularly associated with wintertime, especially as a decoration for Christmas.



Try using holly!

True or False?

Holly berries are poisonous to humans.

How to use holly in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for holly (1 of 2)

/ (ˈhɒlɪ) /

noun plural -lies
any tree or shrub of the genus Ilex, such as the Eurasian I. aquifolium, having bright red berries and shiny evergreen leaves with prickly edges
branches of any of these trees, used for Christmas decorations
holly oak another name for holm oak
See also sea holly

Word Origin for holly

Old English holegn; related to Old Norse hulfr, Old High German hulis, German Hulst, Old Slavonic kolja prick

British Dictionary definitions for holly (2 of 2)

/ (ˈhɒlɪ) /

Buddy. real name Charles Harden Holley. 1936–59, US rock-and-roll singer, guitarist, and songwriter. His hits (all 1956–59) include "That'll be the Day", "Maybe Baby", "Peggy Sue", "Oh, Boy", "Think It Over", and "It Doesn't Matter Anymore"
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