[bawl-suh, bahl-]
a tropical American tree, Ochroma pyramidale (lagopus ), of the bombax family, yielding an exceedingly light wood used for life preservers, rafts, toy airplanes, etc.
a raft made of balsa wood.
any life raft.

1770–80; < Spanish: boat Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
balsa (ˈbɔːlsə)
1.  a bombacaceous tree, Ochroma lagopus, of tropical America
2.  Also called: balsawood the very light wood of this tree, used for making rafts, etc
3.  a light raft
[C18: from Spanish: raft]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1866, apparently from Sp. balsa "float," originally the name of rafts used on the Pacific coast of Latin America (1777).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
So he tried different approaches until he managed to build a camera out of the lightest material he had available-balsa wood.
On-site recreation includes two outdoor swimming pools, shoreline swimming and lounging on balsa-made rafts.
They were being stored in a balsa-wood cake box, which he opened.
It was constructed of logs of balsa wood and bamboo lashed together with rope.
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