• synonyms


[tree-foil, tref-oil]
  1. any of numerous plants belonging to the genus Trifolium, of the legume family, having usually digitate leaves of three leaflets and reddish, purple, yellow, or white flower heads, comprising the common clovers.
  2. any of various similar plants.
  3. Architecture. an ornament composed of three lobes, divided by cusps, radiating from a common center.
  4. such an ornamental figure used by the Girl Scouts as its official emblem.
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  1. of, relating to, or shaped like a trefoil.
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Origin of trefoil

1350–1400; Middle English < Anglo-French trifoil < Latin trifolium triple leaf, the three-leaved plant, clover, equivalent to tri- tri- + folium leaf
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for trefoil

Historical Examples

  • Small windows have heads shaped in the ogee or trefoil forms.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

  • The trefoil ornament in the middle did not look the same as I recalled them.

    Highways in Hiding

    George Oliver Smith

  • The tympanum of the large arch is pierced with a quatrefoil or trefoil.

    Scottish Cathedrals and Abbeys

    Dugald Butler and Herbert Story

  • It had the form of a trefoil clover-leaf with a circle in the centre.

  • This trefoil outline is all boarded, divided into panels, and painted.

British Dictionary definitions for trefoil


  1. any of numerous leguminous plants of the temperate genus Trifolium, having leaves divided into three leaflets and dense heads of small white, yellow, red, or purple flowers
  2. any of various related plants having leaves divided into three leaflets, such as bird's-foot trefoil
  3. a leaf having three leaflets
  4. architect an ornament in the form of three arcs arranged in a circle
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Derived Formstrefoiled, adjective

Word Origin

C14: from Anglo-French trifoil, from Latin trifolium three-leaved herb, from tri- + folium leaf
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 trefoil


c.1400, from Anglo-French trifoil (c.1265), from Old French trefeuil, from Latin trifolium "three-leaved plant," from tri- "three" (see tri-) + folium "leaf" (see folio).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper