1. any of several plants that secrete a milky juice or latex, especially those of the genus Asclepias, as A. syriaca.Compare milkweed family.
  2. any of various other plants having a milky juice, as certain spurges.

Origin of milkweed

First recorded in 1590–1600; milk + weed1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for milkweed

Contemporary Examples of milkweed

Historical Examples of milkweed

  • But its method of capture is somewhat similar to the milkweed.

    My Studio Neighbors

    William Hamilton Gibson

  • What a singular decree has Nature declared with reference to the milkweed!

    My Studio Neighbors

    William Hamilton Gibson

  • Look at the seeds of the boneset, joe-pye-weed, milkweed, and goldenrod!

    The Fall of the Year

    Dallas Lore Sharp

  • Other men padded saddles with milkweed and sewed and polished leather.

    When the Owl Cries

    Paul Bartlett

  • The cotton from the milkweed, then called 'silk-grass,' was used for pillows and cushions.

    The Historical Child

    Oscar Chrisman

British Dictionary definitions for milkweed


  1. Also called: silkweed any plant of the mostly North American genus Asclepias, having milky sap and pointed pods that split open to release tufted seeds: family AsclepiadaceaeSee also asclepias
  2. any of various other plants having milky sap
  3. orange milkweed another name for butterfly weed
  4. another name for monarch (def. 3)
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 milkweed

1590s, from milk (n.) + weed (n.); used in reference to various plants whose juice resembles milk.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper