Definitions

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

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. 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.
  • n. 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 The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

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

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

Comments

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  • (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

  • 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

  • "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

  • A poison-yielding tree of Java.

    December 10, 2007