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wormwood

[wurm-woo d] /ˈwɜrmˌwʊd/
noun
1.
any composite herb or low shrub of the genus Artemisia.
2.
a bitter, aromatic plant, A. absinthium, of the Old World, used as a vermifuge and a tonic, and as an ingredient in absinthe.
3.
something bitter, grievous, or extremely unpleasant.
Origin
late Middle English
1350-1400
1350-1400; late Middle English wormwode (see worm, wood1); replacing Middle English wermode, Old English wermōd; cognate with German Wermut; see vermouth
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for worm wood

wormwood

/ˈwɜːmˌwʊd/
noun
1.
Also called absinthe. any of various plants of the chiefly N temperate genus Artemisia, esp A. absinthium, a European plant yielding a bitter extract used in making absinthe: family Asteraceae (composites)
2.
something that embitters, such as a painful experience
Word Origin
C15: changed (through influence of worm and wood1) from Old English wormōd, wermōd; related to Old High German werrnuata, German Wermut; see vermouth
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for worm wood

wormwood

n.

c.1400, folk etymology of Old English wermod "wormwood," related to vermouth, but the ultimate etymology is unknown. Cf. Old Saxon wermoda, Dutch wermoet, Old High German werimuota, German Wermut. Weekley suggests wer "man" + mod "courage," from its early use as an aphrodisiac. Figurative use, however, is usually in reference to its bitter aftertaste. Perhaps because of the folk etymology, it formerly was used to protect clothes and bedding from moths and fleas. "A medecyne for an hawke that hath mites. Take the Iuce of wormewode and put it ther thay be and thei shall dye." ["Book of St. Albans," 1486]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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worm wood in the Bible

Heb. la'anah, the Artemisia absinthium of botanists. It is noted for its intense bitterness (Deut. 29:18; Prov. 5:4; Jer. 9:15; Amos 5:7). It is a type of bitterness, affliction, remorse, punitive suffering. In Amos 6:12 this Hebrew word is rendered "hemlock" (R.V., "wormwood"). In the symbolical language of the Apocalypse (Rev. 8:10, 11) a star is represented as falling on the waters of the earth, causing the third part of the water to turn wormwood. The name by which the Greeks designated it, absinthion, means "undrinkable." The absinthe of France is distilled from a species of this plant. The "southernwood" or "old man," cultivated in cottage gardens on account of its fragrance, is another species of it.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Encyclopedia Article for worm wood

wormwood

any bitter or aromatic herb or shrub of the genus Artemisia of the family Asteraceae, distributed throughout many parts of the world. These plants have many small, greenish yellow flower heads grouped in clusters. The leaves are usually divided and alternate along the stem; they may be green, grayish green, or silvery white.

Learn more about wormwood with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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