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[ten-dril] /ˈtɛn drɪl/
noun, Botany
a threadlike, leafless organ of climbing plants, often growing in spiral form, which attaches itself to or twines round some other body, so as to support the plant.
Origin of tendril
1530-40; earlier tendrel, variant (perhaps by dissimilation) of Middle English tendren, tendron < Middle French tendron shoot, sprout, cartilage
Related forms
tendrillar, tendrilous, adjective
tendrilly, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tendril
  • It reacts to too much shade by sending out a tendril toward whatever light it can find.
  • Chips of white paint flaking off the window sashes and a tendril of ivy swaying in over the sill.
  • As a watermelon ripens and develops its mature color, check the curly tendril that emerges from the stem end regularly.
  • The tables had been set up in the main room in the shape of a curving tendril.
  • Leaves are opposite, pinnately compound, and reduced to two basal leaflets and a branched tendril between them.
  • Each leaf is subtended by two small stipules and may or may not terminate in a tendril.
  • tendril supports the use of a demarcation point to help the market develop.
  • The leaf consists of two long, narrow leaflets with parallel veins and bears the tendril from juncture of the leaflets.
  • Leaves consist of up to three pairs of leaflets with a terminal tendril.
British Dictionary definitions for tendril


a specialized threadlike part of a leaf or stem that attaches climbing plants to a support by twining or adhering
something resembling a tendril, such as a wisp of hair
Derived Forms
tendrillar, tendrilous, adjective
Word Origin
C16: perhaps from Old French tendron tendril (confused with Old French tendron bud), from Medieval Latin tendōtendon
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 tendril

1530s, from Middle French tendrillon "bud, shoot, cartilage," perhaps a diminutive of tendron "cartilage," from Old French tendre "soft" (see tender (adj.)), or else from Latin tendere "to stretch, extend" (see tender (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tendril in Science
A slender, coiling plant part, often a modified leaf or leaf part, that helps support the stem of some climbing angiosperms by clinging to or winding around an object. Peas, squash, and grapes produce tendrils.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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