[ tuh-bak-oh ]
/ təˈbæk oʊ /

noun, plural to·bac·cos, to·bac·coes.

any of several plants belonging to the genus Nicotiana, of the nightshade family, especially one of those species, as N. tabacum, whose leaves are prepared for smoking or chewing or as snuff.
the prepared leaves, as used in cigarettes, cigars, and pipes.
any product or products made from such leaves.
any of various similar plants of other genera.

Nearby words

  1. toastmaster,
  2. toastmistress,
  3. toasty,
  4. tob,
  5. tob.,
  6. tobacco beetle,
  7. tobacco budworm,
  8. tobacco heart,
  9. tobacco hornworm,
  10. tobacco mosaic

Origin of tobacco

1525–35; < Spanish tabaco, perhaps < Arawak: a pipe for smoking the plant, or roll of leaves smoked, or the plant

Related formsto·bac·co·less, adjectivean·ti·to·bac·co, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tobacco

British Dictionary definitions for tobacco


/ (təˈbækəʊ) /

noun plural -cos or -coes

any of numerous solanaceous plants of the genus Nicotiana, having mildly narcotic properties, tapering hairy leaves, and tubular or funnel-shaped fragrant flowers. The species N. tabacum is cultivated as the chief source of commercial tobacco
the leaves of certain of these plants dried and prepared for snuff, chewing, or smoking
Derived Formstobaccoless, adjective

Word Origin for tobacco

C16: from Spanish tabaco, perhaps from Taino: leaves rolled for smoking, assumed by the Spaniards to be the name of the 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 tobacco



1580s, from Spanish tabaco, in part from an Arawakan (probably Taino) language of the Caribbean, said to mean "a roll of tobacco leaves" (according to Las Casas, 1552) or "a kind of pipe for smoking tobacco" (according to Oviedo, 1535). Scholars of Caribbean languages lean toward Las Casas' explanation. But Spanish tabaco (also Italian tabacco) was a name of medicinal herbs from early 15c., from Arabic tabbaq, attested since 9c. as the name of various herbs. So the word may be a European one transferred to an American plant. The West Indian island of Tobago was said to have been named by Columbus in 1498 from Haitian tambaku "pipe," in reference to the native custom of smoking dried tobacco leaves [Room].

Cultivation in France began 1556 with an importation of seed by Andre Thevet; introduced in Spain 1558 by Francisco Fernandes. Tobacco Road as a mythical place representative of rural Southern U.S. poverty is from the title of Erskine Caldwell's 1932 novel.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper