scarlet pimpernel


See under pimpernel.

Nearby words

  1. scarlet letter,
  2. scarlet letter, the,
  3. scarlet lightning,
  4. scarlet lychnis,
  5. scarlet monkey flower,
  6. scarlet red,
  7. scarlet runner,
  8. scarlet sage,
  9. scarlet tanager,
  10. scarlet woman

Origin of scarlet pimpernel

First recorded in 1850–55


[ pim-per-nel, -nl ]
/ ˈpɪm pərˌnɛl, -nl /


a plant belonging to the genus Anagallis, of the primrose family, especially A. arvensis (scarlet pimpernel), having scarlet or white flowers that close at the approach of bad weather.

Origin of pimpernel

1400–50; late Middle English pympernele < Middle French pimprenelle, nasalized variant of Old French piprenelle < Late Latin *piperīnella, equivalent to piper pepper + -īn- -ine1 + -ella diminutive suffix; replacing Old English pipeneale < Late Latin pipīnella, syncopated variant of *piperīnella Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for scarlet pimpernel


/ (ˈpɪmpəˌnɛl, -nəl) /


any of several plants of the primulaceous genus Anagallis, such as the scarlet pimpernel, typically having small star-shaped flowers
any of several similar and related plants, such as Lysimachia nemorum (yellow pimpernel)

Word Origin for pimpernel

C15: from Old French pimpernelle, ultimately from Latin piper pepper; compare Old English pipeneale


a weedy primulaceous plant, Anagallis arvensis, of temperate regions, having small red, purple, or white star-shaped flowers that close in bad weatherAlso called: poor man's weatherglass, shepherd's weatherglass
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 scarlet pimpernel



c.1400, from Old French pimprenelle, earlier piprenelle (12c.) and directly from Medieval Latin pipinella name of a medicinal plant. This is perhaps from *piperinus "pepper-like" (so called because its fruits resemble peppercorns), a derivative of Latin piper "pepper" (see pepper (n.)); or else it is a corruption of bipinnella, from bipennis "two-winged." The Scarlet Pimpernel was the code name of the hero in an adventure novel of that name published 1905.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper