[ lawr-uhl, lor- ]
/ ˈlɔr əl, ˈlɒr- /
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verb (used with object), lau·reled, lau·rel·ing or (especially British) lau·relled, lau·rel·ling.

to adorn or wreathe with laurel.
to honor with marks of distinction.



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Idioms for laurel

    look to one's laurels, to be alert to the possibility of being excelled or surpassed: New developments in the industry are forcing long-established firms to look to their laurels.
    rest on one's laurels, to be content with one's past or present honors, achievements, etc.: He retired at the peak of his career and is resting on his laurels.

Origin of laurel

1250–1300; dissimilated variant of Middle English laurer, earlier lorer<Anglo-French; Old French lorier bay tree, equivalent to lor bay, laurel (<Latin laurus) + -ier-ier2; see -er2


un·lau·reled, adjectiveun·lau·relled, adjective

Definition for laurel (2 of 2)

[ lawr-uhl, lor- ]
/ ˈlɔr əl, ˈlɒr- /


Stan Arthur Stanley Jefferson, 1890–1965, U.S. motion-picture actor and comedian, born in England.
a city in SE Mississippi.
a town in central Maryland.
a female given name.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does laurel mean?

A laurel is a type of tree with dark, glossy green leaves. In Ancient Greece and Rome, laurel leaves were used to make wreaths that were worn on a person’s head to symbolize victory—like that leaf crown that Caesar is always wearing in statues. Today, we use the word laurels to mean honors.

When used this way, it is almost always plural.

Example: After a 50-year career, I have many laurels, but I’m most proud of my beautiful family.

Where does laurel come from?

Laurel has been used in English for the name of a tree since at least the 1300s. The word ultimately derives from laurus, which was the name of the tree in Latin.

In terms of trees, laurel most commonly refers to the species Laurus nobilis, also called true laurel, bay laurel, or sweet bay laurel. Notably, the leaves of the bay laurel, called bay leaves, are used in cooking to flavor dishes. But there are many other trees that can be called laurels. The laurel family includes the avocado tree and the tree whose bark gives us cinnamon.

However, it was the leaves of the true laurel that were used in ancient times to make wreaths worn as a sign of triumph. The practice started with Greek mythology. Long story short: the nymph Daphne got turned into a laurel tree, so the god Apollo turned it into an evergreen and made a wreath out of its leaves to honor her. The laurel wreath became associated with poets and eventually became a symbol of victory—ancient Olympians were honored with leaf crowns. It is still used as a symbol on flags and crests (much like how the olive branch is used as a symbol of peace). Today, we use laurels to mean “honors,” especially for an achievement in a particular field or activity, as in There are few laurels that she has not achieved in the literary world. Less commonly, laurel can be used as a verb meaning “to crown with laurels” or “to honor.”

Someone who has been honored in a certain way is sometimes called a laureate, as in poet laureate and Nobel laureate. Laurel is often used in the phrase rest on one’s laurels, meaning “to rely on one’s past accomplishments and honors without continuing to try to perform at a high level.” Another idiom, look to one’s laurels, means “to be on guard against one’s rivals.”

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What are some other forms related to laurel?


  • unlaureled (adjective)


What are some synonyms for laurel?

What are some words that share a root or word element with laurel

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


How is laurel used in real life?

Laurels are honors, and they are often discussed in the context of the awards someone has won over a distinguished career. There are many different trees that can be called laurel, but the word most often refers to the bay laurel.



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True or False? 

Laurel wreaths are no longer used as a symbol of victory.

How to use laurel in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for laurel

/ (ˈlɒrəl) /


verb -rels, -relling or -relled or US -rels, -reling or -reled

(tr) to crown with laurels

Word Origin for laurel

C13 lorer, from Old French lorier laurel tree, ultimately from Latin laurus
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

Idioms and Phrases with laurel


see look to one's laurels; rest on one's laurels.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.