the small, sour, blackish fruit of the blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, of the rose family.
the shrub itself.
any of various other plants of the genus Prunus, as a shrub or small tree, P. alleghaniensis, bearing dark-purple fruit.

before 900; Middle English slo, Old English slā(h); cognate with German Schlehe, Dutch slee Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
sloe (sləʊ)
1.  the small sour blue-black fruit of the blackthorn
2.  another name for blackthorn
[Old English slāh; related to Old High German slēha, Middle Dutch sleuuwe]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

"fruit of the blackthorn," O.E. slah (pl. slan), from P.Gmc. *slaikhwon (cf. M.Du., Du. slee, O.H.G. sleha, Ger. Schlehe), from PIE *sleie- "blue, bluish, blue-black" (see livid). Sloe-eyed is attested from 1867; sloe gin first recorded 1895.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


(Prunus spinosa), spiny shrub, of the rose family (Rosaceae), native to Europe but cultivated in other regions. The name is also applied to Crataegus calpodendron (or C. tomentosa), commonly called pear haw, another shrub or small tree of the rose family. P. spinosa usually grows less than 3.6 metres (12 feet) tall and has numerous, small leaves. Its dense growth makes it suitable for hedges. The white flowers, about 2 centimetres (0.8 inch) in diameter, appear before the leaves. The bluish-black, tart-flavoured fruit is about 2 cm in diameter and is used to flavour sloe gin.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
It is a sweet liqueur flavored by sloe berries, the fruit of the blackthorn, which is a member of the plum tree family.
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