• synonyms


[kwosh-uh, -ee-uh]
  1. a shrub or small tree, Quassia amara, of tropical America, having pinnate leaves, showy red flowers, and wood with a bitter taste.Compare quassia family.
  2. any of several other trees having bitter-tasting wood.
  3. Also called bitterwood. Chemistry, Pharmacology. a prepared form of the heartwood of any of these trees, used as an insecticide and in medicine as a tonic to dispel intestinal worms.
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Origin of quassia

1755–65; < New Latin, named after Quassi, 18th-century slave in Dutch Guiana who discovered its medicinal properties; see -ia
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for quassia

Historical Examples

  • Steam this slowly for an hour, then add thirty drops Quassia.

    One Thousand Secrets of Wise and Rich Men Revealed

    C. A. Bogardus

  • Now, a little shower of quassia, just to freshen you up; eh?

    Fernley House

    Laura E. Richards

  • One third of a pint of quassia to which add a tablespoonful of rocksalt.


    James Joyce

  • The lupulin sold to brewers is largely adulterated with quassia.

  • Quassia is the name of a tree which grows in America and the West Indies.

British Dictionary definitions for quassia


  1. any tree of the tropical American simaroubaceous genus Quassia, having bitter bark and wood
  2. the bark and wood of Quassia amara and of a related tree, Picrasma excelsa, used in furniture making
  3. a bitter compound extracted from this bark and wood, formerly used as a tonic and anthelmintic, now used in insecticides
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Word Origin

C18: from New Latin, named after Graman Quassi, a slave who discovered (1730) the medicinal value of the root
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