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[wurm-woo d] /ˈwɜrmˌwʊd/
any composite herb or low shrub of the genus Artemisia.
a bitter, aromatic plant, A. absinthium, of the Old World, used as a vermifuge and a tonic, and as an ingredient in absinthe.
something bitter, grievous, or extremely unpleasant.
Origin of wormwood
late Middle English
1350-1400; late Middle English wormwode (see worm, wood1); replacing Middle English wermode, Old English wermōd; cognate with German Wermut; see vermouth Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for wormwood
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Whatever intelligence the letter may have contained, one thing seemed obvious—that it was gall and wormwood to his heart.

  • Give it brimstone and treacle and a cupful of wormwood and camomile.

    The Manxman Hall Caine
  • It was gall and wormwood to the old man, but it had to be swallowed.

    Empire Builders Francis Lynde
  • This was wormwood and gall to the parent, but he did not spare himself.

    A Waif of the Mountains Edward S. Ellis
  • I have drank the sparkle and foam, and the gall and wormwood of all liquors.

    Fifteen Years in Hell Luther Benson
  • He had to live on her money, which galled him, and to be assisted by the Dean's money, which was wormwood to him.

    Is He Popenjoy? Anthony Trollope
  • Boneset, wormwood and catnip had their places on the wall, together with ears of corn and strings of dried apples.

    The Strollers Frederic S. Isham
British Dictionary definitions for wormwood


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)
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
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for wormwood

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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wormwood 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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