Definitions

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

  • noun A deciduous tree (Antiaris toxicaria) of tropical Africa and Asia that yields a latex used as an arrow poison.
  • noun The poison obtained from this tree or from similar trees.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The poisonous sap of different trees of the Malayan and Philippine Islands, more or less used for arrow-poison.
  • noun The tree Antiaris toxicaria, one of the largest Javanese trees, having a cylindrical stem 60 or 70 feet high below the branches.
  • noun Figuratively, something baneful or pernicious from a moral point of view: as, the upas of drunkenness.

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

  • noun (Bot.) A tree (Antiaris toxicaria) of the Breadfruit family, common in the forests of Java and the neighboring islands. Its secretions are poisonous, and it has been fabulously reported that the atmosphere about it is deleterious. Called also bohun upas.
  • noun A virulent poison used in Java and the adjacent islands for poisoning arrows. One kind, upas antiar, is derived from the upas tree (Antiaris toxicaria). Upas tieute is prepared from a climbing plant (Strychnos Tieute).

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

  • noun botany A tree Antiaris toxicaria of the breadfruit family, common in the forests of Java and the neighboring islands, with poisonous secretions.
  • noun uncountable A virulent poison used in Java and the adjacent islands for poisoning arrows derived from the tree.
  • noun uncountable A poison prepared from a climbing plant Strychnos tieute

Etymologies

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

[Malay (pohun) upas, poison (tree), of Javanese origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Malay upas.

Examples

  • (presented to the Royal Society), upon the effects of similar experiments made with what he terms the upas antiar.

    The History of Sumatra Containing An Account Of The Government, Laws, Customs And Manners Of The Native Inhabitants

  • The former he states to be a decoction or extract from the bark of the roots of a climbing plant of the genus strychnos, called tieute by the natives of Java; and the latter to be a milky, bitter, and yellowish juice, running from an incision in the bark of a large tree (new genus) called antiar; the word upas meaning, as M. Leschenault understands, vegetable poison of any kind.

    The History of Sumatra Containing An Account Of The Government, Laws, Customs And Manners Of The Native Inhabitants

  • The word 'upas,' in the language of the natives, means poison, and there is in the island a valley called the upas, or poison, valley.

    Among the Trees at Elmridge

  • The laburnum, with its golden rain, is potentially a kind of upas tree.

    The Naturalist on the Thames

  • Fuller would, indeed, recommend moderation in the practice; but of 'upas', 'woorara', and persecution, there are no moderate doses possible.

    Literary Remains, Volume 2

  • 'upas' tree -- sulphurous fumes attend final stages.

    Scott's Last Expedition Volume I

  • Great stuff - this can actually make a difference to their work, and I feel that is is actually worth scouring the house for things people have not used for a few weeks, in the secure knowledge that they will be put to good use and go to a good cause, rather than my previous sneaking suspicion that they would end upas landfill.

    Princess Alice Hospice

  • Great stuff - this can actually make a difference to their work, and I feel that is is actually worth scouring the house for things people have not used for a few weeks, in the secure knowledge that they will be put to good use and go to a good cause, rather than my previous sneaking suspicion that they would end upas landfill.

    Princess Alice Hospice

  • Great stuff - this can actually make a difference to their work, and I feel that is is actually worth scouring the house for things people have not used for a few weeks, in the secure knowledge that they will be put to good use and go to a good cause, rather than my previous sneaking suspicion that they would end upas landfill.

    Miscellaneous

  • Great stuff - this can actually make a difference to their work, and I feel that is is actually worth scouring the house for things people have not used for a few weeks, in the secure knowledge that they will be put to good use and go to a good cause, rather than my previous sneaking suspicion that they would end upas landfill.

    February 2009

Comments

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  • A poison-yielding tree of Java.

    December 10, 2007

  • "I have no hope for myself or for others. Our life is a false nature; it is not in the harmony of things; it is an all-blasting upas, whose root is earth, and whose leaves are the skies which rain their poison-dews upon mankind."

    - Thomas Love Peacock, Nightmare Abbey, ch. 11

    September 3, 2008

  • This is one of the most famous trees in Russian literature, thanks to Aleksandr Pushkin's chilling poem "Anchar" ("The Upas Tree", 1828). I was able to find a readable translation on the Internet, but unfortunately no reliable information about the translator. Perhaps the most famous lines from this poem are:

    �?о человека человек

    По�?лал к анчару �? вла�?тным взгл�?дом…

    No cheloveka chelovek

    Poslal k ancharu s vlastnym vzglyadom…

    which I would translate unpoetically as "But with a domineering look one man sent another man to the upas tree…"

    But here is the uncredited translation I found:

    The Upas Tree

    Deep in the desert's misery,

    far in the fury of the sand,

    there stands the awesome Upas Tree

    lone watchman of a lifeless land.

    The wilderness, a world of thirst,

    in wrath engendered it and filled

    its every root, every accursed

    grey leafstalk with a sap that killed.

    Dissolving in the midday sun

    the poison oozes through its bark,

    and freezing when the day is done

    gleams thick and gem-like in the dark.

    No bird flies near, no tiger creeps;

    alone the whirlwind, wild and black,

    assails the tree of death and sweeps

    away with death upon its back.

    And though some roving cloud may stain

    with glancing drops those leaden leaves,

    the dripping of a poisoned rain

    is all the burning sand receives.

    But man sent man with one proud look

    towards the tree, and he was gone,

    the humble one, and there he took

    the poison and returned at dawn.

    He brought the deadly gum; with it

    he brought some leaves, a withered bough,

    while rivulets of icy sweat

    ran slowly down his livid brow.

    He came, he fell upon a mat,

    and reaping a poor slave's reward,

    died near the painted hut where sat

    his now unconquerable lord.

    The king, he soaked his arrows true

    in poison, and beyond the plains

    dispatched those messengers and slew

    his neighbors in their own domains.

    September 3, 2008

  • (noun) - (1) A baleful, destructive, or deadly power or influence. From a fabulous tree . . . with properties so poisonous as to destroy all animal and vegetable life to a distance of 15 or 16 miles around it.

    --Sir James Murray's New English Dictionary, 1926

    (2) Kettish, putrid. It may be said of meat gone too far, "It's very kettish."

    --Alfred Easther's Dialect of Almondbury and Huddersfield, 1883

    January 14, 2018