• synonyms


  1. an American tree, Sassafras albidum, of the laurel family, having egg-shaped leaves and long clusters of greenish-yellow flowers.
  2. the aromatic bark of its root, used medicinally and especially for flavoring beverages, confectionery, etc.
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Origin of sassafras

First recorded in 1570–80, sassafras is from the Spanish word sasafrás
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for sassafras

Historical Examples of sassafras

  • Now go and tell the rest of the boys, and get your sassafras to Preston's as soon as you can.

    Harper's Young People, July 6, 1880


  • The boys found that even the sassafras could not have given her more pleasure.

    Some Three Hundred Years Ago

    Edith Gilman Brewster

  • All she wants is a bit o' boneset tea, or sage an' sassafras.

    Reels and Spindles

    Evelyn Raymond

  • Here they were engaged in loading their bark with sassafras, much to their satisfaction.

    The Settlers

    William H. G. Kingston

  • The Virginians dropped all thought of sassafras and clapboard.

British Dictionary definitions for sassafras


  1. an aromatic deciduous lauraceous tree, Sassafras albidum, of North America, having three-lobed leaves and dark blue fruits
  2. the aromatic dried root bark of this tree, used as a flavouring, and yielding sassafras oil
  3. Australian any of several unrelated trees having a similar fragrant bark
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Word Origin for sassafras

C16: from Spanish sasafrás, of uncertain origin
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 sassafras


small flowering tree of North America, 1570s, from Spanish sasafras, perhaps an adaptation of saxifraga "saxifrage," from Late Latin saxifragia, variant of saxifraga (see saxifrage). But the connection of the plants is difficult to explain, and the word perhaps represents a lost Native American name that sounded like Spanish saxifraga and was altered to conform to it. The tree supposedly was discovered by the Spanish in 1528.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper