from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A fern (Pteridium aquilinum) found worldwide, with large, triangular fronds usually divided into three parts.
  • noun An area with dense thickets of this fern.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A fern, especially the Pteris aquilina and other large ferns. See brake.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A brake or fern.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Any of several coarse ferns, of genus Pteridium, that forms dense thickets; often poisonous to livestock
  • noun An area of countryside heavily infested with this fern

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

  • noun large coarse fern often several feet high; essentially weed ferns; cosmopolitan
  • noun fern of southeastern Asia; not hardy in cold temperate regions


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

[Middle English braken, probably of Scandinavian origin; see bhreg- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English braken, probably of Scandinavian origin. Cognates include Danish bregne and Swedish bräken ("fern").


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  • Surprised to see this on arby's list of Britlish. What's the American word?

    I grew up surrounded by this stuff (Weirdnet makes no sense as usual) and spent summers hacking it down with stick and scythes and autumn weekends inhaling its carcinogenic spores.

    November 30, 2007

  • According to Mencken, we call them ferns. (I've never heard bracken used over here.) I associate this word with Scotland and heath for some reason.

    November 30, 2007

  • To me, the word bracken conjures up images of sea serpents and Grecian mythology. I've only ever heard of these plants being called ferns.

    November 30, 2007

  • I think the sea serpents might be kraken. We have bracken in Ireland as well, mainly in the bogs. It was also the name of a TV soap opera.

    December 1, 2007

  • All together now! We sometimes refer to these plants as bracken fern in Australia. Possibly to distinguish them from other types of fern, eg. tree fern, maidenhair fern, cell fern, etc.

    December 1, 2007

  • One of my favorite first lines of any book is this--and the last time I read it was 1988, so imagine the impression it left on me then:

    "Gavin Cameron, who was eleven years old and would one day become Bishop of Scotland, pulled his dagger from between the man's ribs and wiped it clean on the bracken."

    That's all I know about bracken. Wow! (From Reay Tannahill, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, which I won't ever read again for fear it will suck.)

    December 1, 2007

  • In cadence, that reminds me of one of my favorite first lines (which has nothing to do with bracken), from One Hundred Years of Solitude:

    "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

    December 2, 2007