Definitions

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

  • n. A deciduous European tree (Mespilus germanica) having white flowers and edible apple-shaped fruit.
  • n. The fruit of this plant, eaten fresh or made into preserves.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A tree of the genus Mespilus
  • n. the fruit of the tree. The fruit is something like a small apple, and it is not eaten until it has begun to decay, or more properly, blet.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A tree of the genus Mespilus (Mespilus Germanica); also, the fruit of the tree. The fruit is something like a small apple, but has a bony endocarp. When first gathered the flesh is hard and austere, and it is not eaten until it has begun to decay.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A small, generally bushy tree, Mespilus Germanica, related to the crab-apple, cultivated in gardens for its fruit. It is wild in central and southern Europe, but was introduced from western Asia. See Mespilus.
  • n. The fruit of the above tree, resembling a small brown-skinned apple, but with a broad disk at the summit surrounded by the remains of the calyx-lobes.

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

  • n. small deciduous tree of southern Africa having edible fruit
  • n. a South African globular fruit with brown leathery skin and pithy flesh having a sweet-acid taste
  • n. crabapple-like fruit used for preserves
  • n. small deciduous Eurasian tree cultivated for its fruit that resemble crab apples

Etymologies

Middle English medler, from Old French meslier, medler, from mesle, medle, fruit of the medlar, from Late Latin mespila, from Greek mespilē.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Via Middle English from Old French medler, from medle ("medlar fruit"), from Latin mespila, from Ancient Greek μέσπιλον (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "In 1736, an English traveler in the Chesapeake recorded that 'we gathered a fruit, in our route, called a parsimon sic, of a very delicious taste, not unlike a medlar, tho' somewhat larger: I take it to be a very cooling fruit, and the settlers make use of prodigious quantities to sweeten a beer ... which is vastly wholesome.'"
    —Sarah Hand Meacham, Every Home a Distillery: Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 38

    June 9, 2010

  • Now will he sit under a medlar tree,
    And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
    As maids call medlars, when they laugh alone.
    O Romeo, that she were, O that she were
    An open-arse and thou a pop'rin pear!
    - Shakespeare

    February 16, 2009

  • Yes, it is also known as the open-arse. In Shakespeare's time the fruit was associated with sex, but for the Victorians it was connected to death. Medlars need to be bletted, the only use of that wonderful word.

    December 23, 2008

  • "We be no windfals my Lord; ye must gather us with the ladder of matrimony, or we'l hang till we be rotten. Mons. Indeed that's the way to make ye right openarses... Farewell riddle. Gui. Farewell Medlar."
    - 'Bussy d'Ambois III', G. Chapman, 1607.

    December 15, 2007