Definitions

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

  • noun A Eurasian primrose (Primula veris) having fragrant yellow flowers, widely cultivated as an ornamental and long used in herbal medicine.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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.
  • noun In the United States, the more common name of the marsh-marigold, Caltha palustris.

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

  • noun (Bot.) A common flower in England (Primula veris) having yellow blossoms and appearing in early spring. It is often cultivated in the United States.
  • noun 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.
  • noun (Bot.) a pretty flower of the West (Dodecatheon Meadia), belonging to the same order (Primulaceæ) with the English cowslip.
  • noun (Bot.) bear's-ear (Primula Auricula).

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

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

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

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

Etymologies

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

[Middle English cowslyppe, from Old English cūslyppe : , cow; see gwou- in Indo-European roots + slypa, slime; see sleubh- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.

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

  • 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

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

    Secrets of the Tudor Court

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

    Secrets of the Tudor Court

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

    Secrets of the Tudor Court

Comments

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  • an English primrose, Primula veris. Lovely!

    July 18, 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

  • 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

  • Probably a reference to what usually fertilized the flower.

    July 19, 2007