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[this-uh l] /ˈθɪs əl/
any of various prickly, composite plants having showy, purple flower heads, especially of the genera Cirsium, Carduus, or Onopordum.
any of various other prickly plants.
before 900; Middle English thistel, Old English; cognate with Dutch distel, German Distel, Old Norse thistill
Related forms
thistlelike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for thistles
  • Milk thistles were also gathered as was the blessed thistle.
  • Plants have more than thorns and thistles to protect themselves-they can cry for help.
  • Several native thistles exist in prairies that may be confused with exotic species.
  • The plants are easily distinguished from other thistles by its silvery leaf margins and absence of hairs or fuzz on the leaves.
  • It is far less prickly than other thistles and has a downy surface with blue-green leaves.
  • Adult feeds on nectar from thistles, milkweed, lilac and many others.
  • Scotch thistle can be distinguished from all other thistles by the dense, white, woolly covering on its stems and leaves.
  • Knapweed flowers resemble small thistles growing at the end of clustered branches.
  • Milkweed, thistles, and clover are used by the adults as nectar sources.
British Dictionary definitions for thistles


any of numerous plants of the genera Cirsium,Carduus, and related genera, having prickly-edged leaves, pink, purple, yellow, or white dense flower heads, and feathery hairs on the seeds: family Asteraceae (composites)
a thistle, or a representation of one, as the national emblem of Scotland
Derived Forms
thistly, adjective
Word Origin
Old English thīstel, related to Old Saxon, Old High German thīstil, Old Norse thīstill


noun the Thistle
(sometimes not capital)
  1. the emblem of this Order
  2. membership of this Order
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 thistles



prickly herbaceous plant, Old English þistel, from Proto-Germanic *thikhstula (cf. Old High German distil, German Distel, Old Norse þistell, Danish tidsel), of unknown origin. Emblem of Scotland since 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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thistles in the Bible

(1.) Heb. hoah (2 Kings 14:9; Job 31:40). In Job 41:2 the Hebrew word is rendered "thorn," but in the Revised Version "hook." It is also rendered "thorn" in 2 Chr. 33:11; Prov. 26:9; Cant. 2:2; "brambles" in Isa. 34:13. It is supposed to be a variety of the wild plum-tree, but by some it is regarded as the common thistle, of which there are many varieties in Palestine. (2.) Heb. dardar, meaning "a plant growing luxuriantly" (Gen. 3:18; Hos. 10:8); Gr. tribolos, "a triple point" (Matt. 7:16; Heb. 6:8, "brier," R.V. "thistle"). This was probably the star-thistle, called by botanists Centaurea calcitropa, or "caltrops," a weed common in corn-fields. (See THORNS.)

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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