any of several evergreen, coniferous trees and shrubs of the genera Taxus and Torreya, constituting the family Taxaceae, of the Old World, North America, and Japan, having needlelike or scalelike foliage and seeds enclosed in a fleshy aril.
the fine-grained, elastic wood of any of these trees.
an archer's bow made of this wood.
this tree or its branches as a symbol of sorrow, death, or resurrection.

Origin of yew

before 900; Middle English ew(e), Old English ēow, ī(o)w; cognate with Old High German īga, īwa (Middle High German īwe, German Eibe), Old Norse ýr, MIr yew (Old Irish: stem, shaft), Welsh ywen yew tree, Russian íva willow
Can be confusedewe yew you


[yoo; unstressed yoo]

pronoun Eye Dialect. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for yew

Contemporary Examples of yew

Historical Examples of yew

  • "Why, Miss Nell, it be yew sure enough," she said pleasantly.

    Nell, of Shorne Mills

    Charles Garvice

  • All about the green square mound the trees are thick—laurel, fir, and yew.


    H. R. Haweis

  • You would do right, the yew is indeed a venerable tree, but it is not about the yew.


    George Borrow

  • Admirers of yew trees should make a point of visiting Bignor churchyard.

  • You would do right; the yew is indeed a venerable tree, but it is not about the yew.


    George Borrow

British Dictionary definitions for yew



any coniferous tree of the genus Taxus, of the Old World and North America, esp T. baccata, having flattened needle-like leaves, fine-grained elastic wood, and solitary seeds with a red waxy aril resembling berries: family Taxaceae
the wood of any of these trees, used to make bows for archery
archery a bow made of yew

Word Origin for yew

Old English īw; related to Old High German īwa, Old Norse ӯr yew, Latin ūva grape, Russian iva willow
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 yew

Old English iw, eow "yew," from Proto-Germanic *iwa-/*iwo- (cf. Middle Dutch iwe, Dutch ijf, Old High German iwa, German Eibe, Old Norse yr), from PIE *ei-wo- (cf. Old Irish eo, Welsh ywen "yew"), perhaps a suffixed form of *ei- "reddish, motley, yellow." OED says French if, Spanish iva, Medieval Latin ivus are from Germanic (and says Dutch ijf is from French); others posit a Gaulish ivos as the source of these. Lithuanian jeva likewise is said to be from Germanic. The tree symbolizes both death and immortality, being poisonous as well as long-lived.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper