balsa

[bawl-suh, bahl-]
noun
1.
a tropical American tree, Ochroma pyramidale (lagopus ), of the bombax family, yielding an exceedingly light wood used for life preservers, rafts, toy airplanes, etc.
2.
a raft made of balsa wood.
3.
any life raft.

Origin:
1770–80; < Spanish: boat

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World English Dictionary
balsa (ˈbɔːlsə)
 
n
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
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

balsa
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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