sassafras

sassafras

[sas-uh-fras]
noun
1.
an American tree, Sassafras albidum, of the laurel family, having egg-shaped leaves and long clusters of greenish-yellow flowers.
2.
the aromatic bark of its root, used medicinally and especially for flavoring beverages, confectionery, etc.

Origin:
1570–80; < Spanish sasafrás

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World English Dictionary
sassafras (ˈsæsəˌfræs)
 
n
1.  an aromatic deciduous lauraceous tree, Sassafras albidum, of North America, having three-lobed leaves and dark blue fruits
2.  the aromatic dried root bark of this tree, used as a flavouring, and yielding sassafras oil
3.  (Austral) any of several unrelated trees having a similar fragrant bark
 
[C16: from Spanish sasafras, of uncertain origin]

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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

sassafras
"small flowering tree of N.America," 1577, from Sp. sasafras, perhaps an adaptation of saxifraga "saxifrage," from L.L. saxifragia, variant of saxifraga (see saxifrage). But the connection of the plants is difficult to explain, and the word perhaps represents a lost Native
Amer. name that sounded like Sp. saxifraga and was altered to conform to it. Tree supposedly discovered by the Spanish in 1528.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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