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

  • noun Any of several aromatic resins, such as balsam of Peru and balsam of Tolu, that contain considerable amounts of benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, or both, or their esters.
  • noun Any of several other fragrant plant resins, such as Canada balsam.
  • noun A similar substance, especially a fragrant ointment used as medication; a balm.
  • noun Any of various trees, especially the balsam fir, yielding an aromatic resinous substance.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An oily, aromatic, resinous substance, exuding spontaneously from trees of the genus Balsamodendron; hence, by extension, any aromatic or odoriferous exudation from trees or shrubs, whether spontaneous or after incision; balm.
  • noun An aromatic preparation used for embalming the dead.
  • noun Any aromatic fragrant ointment, whether for ceremonial or for medicinal use, as for healing wounds or soothing pain.
  • noun Figuratively, any healing or soothing agent or agency.
  • noun In alchemy, a healthful preservative essence, of oily penetrative nature, conceived by Paracelsus to exist in all organic bodies.
  • noun A tree yielding an aromatic, oily resin.
  • noun The Impatiens balsamina, a familiar flowering annual, of Eastern origin, cultivated in many varieties, often called garden-balsam, and in the United States lady's-slipper; also, the native European species, I. Noli-me-tangere, and the American I. fulva. See Impatiens and jewel-weed.
  • noun In medical prescriptions abbreviated to bals.
  • To apply balsam or balm to; anoint with balm or balsam.
  • To embalm.

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

  • transitive verb To treat or anoint with balsam; to relieve, as with balsam; to render balsamic.
  • noun A resin containing more or less of an essential or volatile oil.
  • noun A species of tree (Abies balsamea).
  • noun An annual garden plant (Impatiens balsamina) with beautiful flowers; balsamine.
  • noun Anything that heals, soothes, or restores.
  • noun (Bot.) an East Indian plant (Momordica balsamina), of the gourd family, with red or orange-yellow cucumber-shaped fruit of the size of a walnut, used as a vulnerary, and in liniments and poultices.
  • noun (Bot.) the American coniferous tree, Abies balsamea, from which the useful Canada balsam is derived.
  • noun See Copaiba.
  • noun balm of Gilead.
  • noun a reddish brown, syrupy balsam, obtained from a Central American tree (Myroxylon Pereiræ and used as a stomachic and expectorant, and in the treatment of ulcers, etc. It was long supposed to be a product of Peru.
  • noun a reddish or yellowish brown semisolid or solid balsam, obtained from a South American tree (Myroxylon toluiferum). It is highly fragrant, and is used as a stomachic and expectorant.
  • noun any tree from which balsam is obtained, esp. the Abies balsamea.
  • noun Canada turpentine, a yellowish, viscid liquid, which, by time and exposure, becomes a transparent solid mass. It is obtained from the balm of Gilead (or balsam) fir (Abies balsamea) by breaking the vesicles upon the trunk and branches. See Balm.

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

  • noun A sweet-smelling oil or resin derived from various plants.
  • noun A plant or tree yielding such substance.
  • noun A soothing ointment.
  • noun figuratively Something soothing.
  • noun A flowering plant of the genus Impatiens.
  • noun A balsam fir.
  • noun Canada balsam, a turpentine obtained from the resin of balsam fir.
  • verb transitive To treat or anoint with balsam.

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

  • noun an ointment containing a fragrant resin
  • noun any seed plant yielding balsam
  • noun any of various fragrant oleoresins used in medicines and perfumes


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

[Latin balsamum, from Greek balsamon, of Semitic origin; see bśm in Semitic roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English *balsam, balsme, from Old English balsam, balsamum ("balsam, balm"), from Latin balsamum, from Ancient Greek βάλσαμον (balsamon, "balsam"), of Semitic origin.



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  • "The border between fragrance and drugs was porous and ill-defined. Among the rarest and most expensive spices listed in herbals and merchants' handbooks are perfumed substances used primarily as medicines, things like balsam, an aromatic resin from a plant native to Arabia. Its sap was credited with marvelous healing properties but also with high spiritual powers. Balsam was called for in Christian rites involving anointment, such as baptism, the ordination of priests, and the consecration of bishops. Another Arabian resin, frankincense, was (and remains) the principal ingredient in the censing rituals of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. In keeping with the versatility characteristic of spices, frankincense was also used as a medicine, to scent houses, and to perfume banquets."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 14.

    Used in a translated primary source from ca. 900 on perfumer.

    October 9, 2017