a tall, thistlelike composite plant, Cynara scolymus, native to the Mediterranean region, of which the numerous scalelike bracts and receptacle of the immature flower head are eaten as a vegetable.
the large, rounded, closed flower head itself.
Also called globe artichoke (for defs 1, 2).

1525–35; < Upper Italian articiocco, variant (by dissimilation) of arciciocco, arcicioffo < *arcarcioffo < Old Spanish alcarchofa < dialectal Arabic al-kharshūf the artichoke Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
artichoke (ˈɑːtɪˌtʃəʊk)
1.  Also called: globe artichoke a thistle-like Eurasian plant, Cynara scolymus, cultivated for its large edible flower head containing many fleshy scalelike bracts: family Asteraceae (composites)
2.  the unopened flower head of this plant, which can be cooked and eaten
3.  See Jerusalem artichoke
[C16: from Italian articiocco, from Old Spanish alcarchofa, from Arabic al-kharshūf]

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

1530s, from articiocco, Northern Italian variant of It. arcicioffo, from O.Sp. alcarchofa, from Arabic al-hursufa "artichoke." The Northern Italian variation probably is from influence of ciocco "stump." Folk-etymology has twisted the word in Eng.; the ending is probably influenced by choke, and early
forms of the word in English include archecokk, hortichock, artychough, hartichoake. The plant was known in Italy by 1450s, brought to Florence from Naples in 1466, and introduced in England in the reign of Henry VIII. Fr. artichaut (16c.), Ger. Artischocke (16c.) both are also from Italian.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Then she continued along a row of artichoke plants, her head bowed, always at
  that dramatic pace.
Memorize these toppings for the pizza you are about to make: oregano, sausage,
  artichoke hearts.
The marinated rose petals with artichoke foam were not a complete success.
Salt cod cheeks with beets, broccoli, chopped eggs and artichoke are delicious.
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