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[furn] /fɜrn/
any seedless, nonflowering vascular plant of the class Filicinae, of tropical to temperate regions, characterized by true roots produced from a rhizome, triangular fronds that uncoil upward and have a branching vein system, and reproduction by spores contained in sporangia that appear as brown dots on the underside of the fronds.
Origin of fern
before 900; Middle English ferne, Old English fearn; cognate with German Farn fern, Sanskrit parná feather
Related forms
fernless, adjective
fernlike, adjective


[furn] /fɜrn/
a female given name. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for fern
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Wild horses fled from us, and we heard the grunt of boar in the fern thickets.

  • I hold it to be so, as much as the seed of a fern or of an oak.

  • In Scotland one may detect deer, though it be but a tip of an antler, when couched in the tallest heather or fern.

    Unexplored Spain Abel Chapman
  • The fern has been cut to relieve and encourage them for the last three years.

    The Forest of Dean H. G. Nicholls
  • Right before us was a thicket, tangled with fern, and scarcely twenty yards beyond it lay the beach shining in the star-light.

    The Island Home Richard Archer
  • Mrs. Merriman is getting ready to lend her fern to the Nortons, June 15.

    In Our Town William Allen White
  • The Southern sun glared down hot and clear on the yellow bracken and banks of fern which lined the narrow winding track.

    The Gully of Bluemansdyke A. Conan Doyle
  • He stared into woods where a cool light lay on moss and fern.

    The Trail of the Hawk Sinclair Lewis
British Dictionary definitions for fern


any tracheophyte plant of the phylum Filicinophyta, having roots, stems, and fronds and reproducing by spores formed in structures (sori) on the fronds See also tree fern
any of certain similar but unrelated plants, such as the sweet fern
Derived Forms
fernlike, adjective
ferny, adjective
Word Origin
Old English fearn; related to Old High German farn, Sanskrit parná leaf
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
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Word Origin and History for fern

Old English fearn, from Proto-Germanic *farno- (cf. Old Saxon farn, Middle Dutch vaern, Dutch varen, Old High German farn, German Farn), possibly with a sense of "having feathery fronds" and from PIE *por-no-, a root which has yielded words for "feather, wing" (cf. Sanskrit parnam "feather;" Lithuanian papartis "fern;" Russian paporot'; Greek pteris "fern," pteron "feather"), from root *per- (see petition (n.)). The plant's ability to appear as if from nothing accounts for the ancient belief that fern seeds conferred invisibility.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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fern in Science
Any of numerous seedless vascular plants belonging to the phylum Pterophyta that reproduce by means of spores and usually have feathery fronds divided into many leaflets. Most species of ferns are homosporous (producing only one kind of spore). The haploid spore grows into a small, usually flat gametophyte known as a prothallus, which is undifferentiated into roots, stems, and leaves. The green prothallus anchors itself with hairlike extensions known as rhizoids and bears both archegonia (organs producing female gametes) and antheridia (organs producing male gametes). The male gametes require the presence of water to swim to the female gametes and fertilize the eggs. Normally only one embryo is produced, and it then grows out of the gametophyte plant as a diploid sporophyte plant that has roots, stems, and leaves and conducts photosynthesis, while the smaller gametophyte withers away. The leaves of these sporophytes eventually produce sporangia (in some species occurring in clusters known as sori). Under dry conditions, the sori burst releasing hundreds of thousands or millions of spores. Ferns were abundant in the Carboniferous period and exist today in about 11,000 species, about three-quarters of which live in tropical climates.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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