Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of various perennial herbs or small shrubs of the genus Acanthus, native to the Mediterranean and having pinnately lobed basal leaves with spiny margins and showy spikes of white or purplish flowers. Also called bear's breech.
  • n. Architecture A design patterned after the leaves of one of these plants, used especially on the capitals of Corinthian columns.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A genus of herbaceous prickly plants, found in the south of Europe, Asia Minor, and India; bear's-breech.
  • n. An ornament resembling the foliage or leaves of the acanthus (Acanthus spinosus); -- used in the capitals of the Corinthian and Composite orders.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In botany, a genus of tall herbaceous plants of southern Europe and Africa, natural order Acanthaceæ.
  • n. [lowercase] The common name of plants of this genus. In zoology, a genus of crustaceans. [lowercase] In architecture, a characteristic ornament derived from or resembling the conventionalized foliage or leaves of the acanthus, used in capitals of the Corinthian and Composite orders, and in Roman, Byzantine, medieval, and Renaissance architecture generally, as upon friezes, cornices, modillions, etc.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. any plant of the genus Acanthus having large spiny leaves and spikes or white or purplish flowers; native to Mediterranean region but widely cultivated

Etymologies

New Latin Acanthus, genus name, from Greek akanthos, thorn plant, from akantha, thorn.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

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