8 Wintry Words to Defrost Your Vocabulary
mid-14c., from Old French sicamor, from Latin sycomorus, from Greek sykomoros, from sykon "fig" + moron "mulberry." Or perhaps a folk-etymology for Hebrew shiqmah "mulberry." A Biblical word, originally used for a species of fig tree (Ficus sycomorus) common in Egypt, Syria, etc., whose leaves somewhat resemble those of the mulberry; applied from 1580s to Acer pseudoplatanus, a large species of European maple, and from 1814 to the North American shade tree that is also called buttonwood (Platanus occidentalis, introduced to Europe from Virginia 1637 by Filius Tradescant). Some writers have used the more Hellenic sycomore in reference to the Biblical tree for the sake of clarity.
more properly sycomore (Heb. shikmoth and shikmim, Gr. sycomoros), a tree which in its general character resembles the fig-tree, while its leaves resemble those of the mulberry; hence it is called the fig-mulberry (Ficus sycomorus). At Jericho, Zacchaeus climbed a sycomore-tree to see Jesus as he passed by (Luke 19:4). This tree was easily destroyed by frost (Ps. 78:47), and therefore it is found mostly in the "vale" (1 Kings 10:27; 2 Chr. 1:15: in both passages the R.V. has properly "lowland"), i.e., the "low country," the shephelah, where the climate is mild. Amos (7:14) refers to its fruit, which is of an inferior character; so also probably Jeremiah (24:2). It is to be distinguished from our sycamore (the Acer pseudo-platanus), which is a species of maple often called a plane-tree.