Definitions

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

  • n. A Eurasian primrose (Primula veris), usually having fragrant yellow flowers, widely cultivated as an ornamental, and long used in herbal medicine.
  • n. See marsh marigold.
  • n. The Virginia cowslip.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A low-growing plant, Primula veris, with yellow flowers.
  • n. A plant in the buttercup family, Caltha palustris, growing in wet, boggy locations.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A common flower in England (Primula veris) having yellow blossoms and appearing in early spring. It is often cultivated in the United States.
  • n. In the United States, the marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), appearing in wet places in early spring and often used as a pot herb. It is nearer to a buttercup than to a true cowslip. See Illust. of Marsh marigold.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The popular name of several varieties of Primula veris, a favorite wild flower found in British pastures and hedge-banks, and cultivated in the United States. It has umbels of small, buff-yellow, scented flowers on short pedicels. Its flowers have been used as an anodyne.
  • n. In the United States, the more common name of the marsh-marigold, Caltha palustris.

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

  • n. swamp plant of Europe and North America having bright yellow flowers resembling buttercups
  • n. early spring flower common in British isles having fragrant yellow or sometimes purple flowers

Etymologies

Middle English cowslyppe, from Old English cūslyppe : , cow; see gwou- in Indo-European roots + slypa, slime; see sleubh- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English cowslyppe, from Old English cūslyppe ("cowslip"), from  ("cow") + slyppe ("paste, viscid substance"), related to Old English slūpan ("to slip, glide, move softly"). Compare oxlip. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • We gathered a few, however, by way of doing our Maying, adding to them some violets scattered along the roadside, and a bunch of the golden flowers of the marsh marigold, which enticed us off the road into a low, boggy spot, by their bright blossoms; a handsome flower, this – the country people call it cowslip, though differing entirely from the true plant of that name.

    Rural Hours

  • Lordy massy, yest 'day arternoon I see yer Aunt Keziah an' yer Aunt Lois out a cuttin 'cowslip greens t'other side o' th 'river, an' the sun it shone so bright, an 'the turtles an' frogs they kind o 'peeped so pleasant, an' yer aunts they sot on the bank so kind o 'easy an' free, an 'I stood there a lookin' on 'em, an 'I could n't help a thinkin', 'Lordy messy, I wish t' I wus an old maid. '

    Oldtown Folks

  • _If a child be delicate, is there any objection to a little wine, such as cowslip or tent, to strengthen him_?

    Advice to a Mother on the Management of Her Children

  • "D'you know that the green of the cowslip is the most beautiful green in all Nature, Joan?

    Lying Prophets

  • The warden and her volunteers had banished from the graveyard the regimental stripes of the lawn mower and the bleach lines of weed killers, encouraging instead a profusion of what nature writer Richard Mabey calls "the wild flowers of the English pastoral," such as primrose, lady's slipper and cowslip.

    Stow the Mower, Stop Pulling

  • Roses vied for attention with more common blooms—cowslip, stock, gillyflowers, and white violets.

    Secrets of the Tudor Court

  • We happened to have already been growing this primula veris, the English cowslip, started from seed years ago.

    Planting For Fairies « Fairegarden

  • That particular cowslip is different from the rest with that ball shape.

    Bloom Days April 2008 « Fairegarden

  • Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her The flow'ry May, who from her green lap throws The yellow cowslip, and the pale primrose.

    'The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton'

  • Gaertner, though he took the greatest pains to cross the primrose and the cowslip, succeeded only once or twice in several years; and yet it is a well-established fact that the primrose and the cowslip are only varieties of the same kind of plant.

    Essays

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Comments

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  • Probably a reference to what usually fertilized the flower.

    July 19, 2007

  • You may be close, arby--I think it comes from an Old English word that combines "cow" and "slime." Yuck. Should be a better word for such a nice flower.

    July 19, 2007

  • Does anyone know why it's called this? I always picture a cow slipping on something in the pasture. Perhaps its own cow pie?

    July 19, 2007

  • an English primrose, Primula veris. Lovely!

    July 18, 2007