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sarsaparilla

[sas-puh-ril-uh, sahr-suh-puh-, sahr-spuh-]
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noun
  1. any of various climbing or trailing tropical American plants belonging to the genus Smilax, of the lily family, having alternate leaves, umbels of flowers, and a root that has been used in the treatment of psoriasis.
  2. the root.
  3. an extract or other preparation made of this root.
  4. a soft drink flavored with an extract of this root, as root beer.
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Origin of sarsaparilla

1570–80; < Spanish zarzaparrilla, equivalent to zarza bush + parrilla (parr(a) vine + -illa diminutive suffix)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for sarsaparilla

sarsaparilla

noun
  1. any of various prickly climbing plants of the tropical American genus Smilax having large aromatic roots and heart-shaped leaves: family Smilacaceae
  2. the dried roots of any of these plants, formerly used as a medicine
  3. a nonalcoholic drink prepared from these roots
  4. any of various plants resembling true sarsaparilla, esp the araliaceous plant Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla), of North America
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Word Origin

C16: from Spanish zarzaparrilla, from zarza a bramble, (from Arabic šaras) + -parrilla, from Spanish parra a climbing plant
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 sarsaparilla

n.

tropical American plant, 1570s, from Spanish zarzaparrilla, from zarza "bramble" (from Arabic sharas "thorny plant" or Basque sartzia "bramble") + parrilla, diminutive of parra "vine," which is of unknown origin. Hence, also, "a medicinal preparation of sarsaparilla" (1570s). In 16c.-17c. the dried roots were held to be efficient in treatment of syphilis.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper